All it took was a phone call.
The Edmonton Eskimos were in the process Wednesday of signing receiver Derick Armstrong, who was released by the B.C. Lions earlier this season before being plucked off of the Saskatchewan Roughriders practice roster.
“We were looking for a veteran and he had just gotten there, as a matter of fact,” said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall. “The player has the final say and he was more than happy to be coming here. Then I told him that we were playing B.C. on Saturday and it just took it up another level.”
Armstrong sat out the entire 2009 season after refusing to play with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers under the Mike Kelly regime. He joined the Lions and was their second-leading receiver before being released on Aug. 10.
“It’s been a rocky year, but I guess it’s part of the business,” Armstrong said. “I’ve been through things like this before, so right now I’m just happy that I’m in Edmonton.”
Not that he was unhappy with Saskatchewan, but Edmonton is giving him a chance to compete right away.
“I was there with them, but I thought this was a better situation for me,” Armstrong said. “I wanted to go out and play the best football that I could play with this team, especially facing B.C.
“I want to show those guys that I still can play. They had their reasons, I had mine, but right now with Edmonton I get a chance to play my former team. They’ll find out this Saturday.”
While he wasn’t officially signed, Armstrong was present at practice wearing jersey No. 84, but wasn’t participating. Hall said Armstrong will play this week.
“(He’s) a veteran, understands the game. Playing against his ex-team, he’s been successful up here,” Hall said. “Right now, we’re down at the receiver spot and it’s an experienced guy who has come in and performed and has had success at a high level and is able to help us out.
“It’s a lot different than if you had someone that you’re trying to teach the CFL game to.”
In this case, it may be Armstrong doing the teaching when it comes to the Lions’ playbook.
“To me, it really doesn’t matter regarding the Lions’ playbook. I think he can provide some tips for us,” Hall said. “But the bottom line is if we don’t go out there and execute and take care of our responsibilities and make plays, it really doesn’t matter.”
But it matters to Armstrong.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “These guys have a chance to make a run for the playoffs and what a way for me to start to be a part of it.”
Armstrong said he feels no apology is necessary to any of his would-have-been teammates in Saskatchewan because it’s “just business,” but controversy seems to have followed his career closely so far.
“It’s just one of those things, I’m not a troublesome person. So I guess football has taken me through a different obstacle that I’m not used to,” he said. “At one point, I was on top and now I’m going through the transition of trying to stick with a club.”