Arkee Whitlock’s season isn’t over after all.
The Edmonton Eskimos running back is getting a new lease on the 2010 season after being placed on the nine-game injured list with a sore ankle on Sept. 9.
Although he’s not scheduled to return until Nov. 13, the Eskimos have the ability to activate one injured player early.
“I’m a few weeks ahead of schedule on the injury,” Whitlock said. ‘I’ve been feeling pretty good these past few weeks. They’ve been giving me a little bit more rest, which was smart.
“(Tuesday) was the first time I really was fully involved and as of right now, yeah, I will be playing this week. I’m not sure about numbers … but my jersey’s packed and I’m excited about that. I’m just ready to get out there, man. I’m a little rusty but pretty sure after the first few series I’ll get back in the groove.”
Whitlock took over first-team reps Tuesday for Daniel Porter, who sat out after taking a late hit along the sidelines during last Saturday’s game that resulted in an unnecessary roughness call.
“He went down, he was out for a little bit,” said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall. “He took a shot, one of those unnecessary hits.”
Faced with the choice between two proven running backs, Hall said either one or the other will play Saturday.
“We’re taking it day by day,” he said. “You prepare yourself for the worst situation. You’re not looking to play both of them this week. There’s domino effects with what you do.
“We want to see the health of both of them and then make our decisions.”
One thing’s for certain, the return of Whitlock gives the Eskimos another option.
“Seeing him out there running around, he took in some extra drills blocking after practice so that seems real good,” Hall said. “He hasn’t been out there for an extended period of time so it was nice to see him getting physically and mentally ready to play a football game.”
While he’s spent plenty of time on his mental game, Whitlock is looking forward to things getting more physical.
“I’m just excited to suit up on a game day,” Whitlock said. “I’ve watched many games these past few weeks and I’m excited to get out there here where it counts the most.”
It was difficult for Whitlock to watch from the sidelines as his teammates turned the Eskimos’ fortunes around, winning five of their last six games.
“I am more pleased with my team’s efforts and my team’s wins than I am worried about me playing,” he said. “Even if I didn’t ever get to play again I was excited to see my team win because at the end of the day, it’s about team.”
Whitlock leads the Eskimos with 689 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 118 attempts this season, while Porter has been hot on his heels with 450 yards on 67 carries with two touchdowns. Neither has committed a fumble.
“It’s been too long,” Whitlock said. “First time for me I’ve ever experienced anything like that, so for me, it was rough both mentally and physically.
“I’ve got better every week and I’ve gotten over. I had to keep a strong mindset and that helped me get through it. Now I’m getting an opportunity to get back and get my feet wet.”