EDMONTON - It will take some time to find their former form.
But the Edmonton Eskimos hold high expectations that Adam Braidwood and Kelly Campbell can get back to their old selves.
Campbell led the CFL with 22.6 yards per reception as a rookie in 2008 before trying to return to the NFL, and Braidwood was taken by the Eskimos as the first-overall pick in the 2006 CFL draft.
While the defensive tackle fit in immediately and played 32 games in his first two years in the league, he has sat on the shelf just as long with a knee injury.
Likewise, coaches haven’t seen much of Campbell in training camp so far after his late arrival last week, which makes it difficult to evaluate his ability, said head coach Richie Hall.
“We know what his capabilities are, but the biggest thing is him being here and being healthy, to be around his teammates, for him to be running the routes and getting the timing down,” Hall said of Campbell, who sat out the last two days with a sore throat. “You need to be on the field to get that football awareness with you and your teammates.”
Campbell, who didn’t arrive in time to be ready for last Sunday’s game, is listed as day to day and is questionable for this week’s game against the B.C. Lions.
“Your body takes time to heal,” Hall said. “As much as we want him to progress, the body has its own timetable.”
But even a healthy Campbell will need time to learn the playbook.
“What you read here and how you respond on the field is two different things,” said Hall. “Being on the practice field … to make sure that you’re on the same page as the other guys as well as the quarterback, that’s what players miss when they’re not able to practice.”
Braidwood’s non-import status could give the Eskimos a break on their ratio on defence, which is currently made up of Americans at all but one position, the safety. Last year, the Eskimos played imports all along the defensive line.
“It gives us the opportunity for depth at that position,” said Hall, noting the Eskimos picked up Dee Sterling in the CFL draft last year. “In a perfect world, what we’d like to do as an organization is work towards trying to play with two non-imports on defence.
“If Adam can do that for us at some point in time, I think that enhances our football team.”
But no one is putting any added pressure on Braidwood, who is still in the stage of testing out his rehabilitated knee.
“Coming off an injury two years removed, things don’t just happen overnight,” said Hall, adding Braidwood is steadily improving. “Especially the last two days, I like what I see in him. He’s being more physical, he’s being more aggressive and he’s being more confident in his actions.
“That’s the biggest thing, is trusting that your body’s going to hold out.”