EDMONTON - Take it as a measure of respect for the big guy.
Even though Dario Romero’s 2009 season ended Sept. 26 last year when he tore his left bicep, he was still voted on to the CFL West all-star team for the second consecutive year.
That’s how much Romero means to the Edmonton Eskimos.
After missing the last six regular-season games and the playoffs, Romero had plenty of time to think about his future in football and beyond.
And, the look on his face tells you he’s ready to step back and regain his status as the intimidating force he’s become.
“When you lose one of your leaders, one of your impact players, you miss him,” said Esks head coach Richie Hall. “You miss him kinda like you’d miss the thumb on your hand. You see how the other four fingers function without it. It’s nice to have him back.
“What really encourages you is his enthusiasm and his happiness. You almost like to think he has the attitude of a rookie and he works hard. It’s night and day when he’s there and when he’s not there.”
Romero has earned a reputation of being a tough hombre. He’s played through pain before and was on pace to have his best season ever.
“I worked my butt off this off-season to get my arm right,” said Romero, who had a team-leading six sacks when he went down. “I just kinda had a lot of time to really think about the path I was on last year and the season I was having and just kinda let it burn a little bit that I missed those last six games.”
Could he have earned the recognition of finally being named to the CFL all-star team if he’d stayed healthy? There’s a good chance that would have happened. What didn’t burn out was his desire to keep improving.
“It added to the motivation, but at the same time, every year I look forward to starting a new season,” said Romero. “It’s just even more exciting to be back out here, knowing my arm is 100%.”
The toughest part for Romero was knowing the nature of the injury could not be endured by simply gritting his teeth and gutting it out like he’d done so often in the past.
This one was different. Way different.
“It was the first time ever,” said Romero. “Usually, if you roll an ankle, you can tape it up and deal with it. I knew I was not playing for the rest of the season. My bicep was completely torn off. They said it would take six months of recovery.
“This off-season, I was way ahead of schedule and my arm, I have no problems. It doesn’t even ache after practice. I wouldn’t even know I did it last year.”
Romero did a lot of weight training, a lot of range-of-motion exercises to get his arm functioning properly again.
“A lot of rest, really,” said Romero. “There was a lot of times this off-season where I overworked it. It was a balance between work and rest.”
Training camp is always a time for optimism and Romero likes what he sees shaping up around him so far.
“You know what, we’ve got a good group of guys,” said Romero. “Humble hard workers. I feel they did a good job of bringing in good people and good players.
“We’re making plays in the backfield, guys breaking on the ball and making interceptions. It’s good to see.”
Romero had not been on a practice field for a little over eight months. It’ll take little time for the newer players around him to figure out this is a guy who leads by example.