EDMONTON - Jason Barnes’s comeback is back on track.
The Edmonton Eskimos wide receiver practised Friday for the first time in eight months, after suffering a season-ending hit from a pair of Hamilton Tiger-cats defenders last October.
Barnes not only regained his health — after suffering a ruptured spleen and bruising on a kidney and lung — but also his football form, only to be summarily dismissed in last Saturday’s medicals because of … his ankle?
“We had a medical meeting on Saturday,” said Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman, adding Barnes was one of five players flagged. “They said he had an ankle (issue). We had to make a determination by 3 p.m. So we sat down with five players and talked with them. Technically, if we didn’t release Jason by 3 p.m., we ‘bought’ him.”
Long story short, the Eskimos wanted more time rather than committing to Barnes, who is entering his third CFL season.
“We had to make a determination. You can re-add people,” said Tillman. “We had a chance to visit with our doctors more, but we found out 30 minutes before we had to say in or out.
“It was not a callous, cold-hearted decision.”
But Tillman said he didn’t get the chance to explain anything.
“He got very emotional, stormed out of the office,” the GM said. “All we wanted to say was that we needed to gather more information.”
They have. And Barnes is back.
“It’s been a roller-coaster,” said the six-foot-three, 185-pound Sacramento State product, who returned to California for the five days before re-signing.
“Definitely after the hit, coming back from injury, training all off-season, coming back in here — to get that kind of news, it kind of set me back.”
The ankle in question is something Barnes has dealt with for the past four years, and only flares up for a few minutes if he plants his foot wrong.
“I was definitely shocked to find out I was going to be released over an ankle after what I came back from,” Barnes said. “I kind of lost it a little bit in the office. But no harm, no foul.
“Everyone around here knows what kind of guy I am, so they were all kind of shocked on my reaction. Even myself. Eric met me at the airport with a big smile on his face, so apologies on both sides.”
Instead of a burnt bridge, now it’s just water under it as Barnes got right back into the action, hearing applause from the fans in the stands after making his first catch.
“I heard it, it felt good,” Barnes said. “I didn’t really have time to enjoy it, I was right back on the next play. It’s just like riding a bike, really.
“It feels really, really good to be back out here.”
Now he has to see if he can shake the memory of last year’s hit like he shakes coverage.
“You can’t really worry about getting hurt or else you’re going to be out here messing up,” said Barnes, who is looking to pick up where he left off after emerging from last year’s training camp as the team’s top wide out.
Head coach Kavis Reed expects nothing less.
“Jason is going to provide good depth and competition for us,” Reed said. “He’s back here just competing very well. He’s in shape, he is catching the ball very well for us.
“He’s a quiet perfectionist.”