Restelli returns to Eskimos

Mark Restelli faces the media in his first day back at Eskimos camp- Restelli fell short in his bid...

Mark Restelli faces the media in his first day back at Eskimos camp- Restelli fell short in his bid to latch onto the Miami Dolphins roster. (Codie McLachlan/QMI Agency)

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:44 PM ET

Sporting a new haircut, Mark Restelli made it back in time to get in on the team picture.

The import linebacker took his place among the rest of the Edmonton Eskimos in the annual group shot despite having yet to play a game this season.

But the plan for Restelli was always to return if things didn’t work out in the NFL.

“I’m glad to be back here, glad to be playing,” he said on Monday. “I heard the defence here is doing pretty well, so it should be a lot of fun, I’m excited to learn it.

“I’ve only been here for a day, but I know some of the vets. They have great leaders and I’ve heard they have nothing but good guys in here. They have good people, guys you like to have around the locker room, guy that try hard, smart guys that know how to play.”

Restelli, 25, a native of Houston, Texas, had been with the Eskimos for the previous two seasons before heading down to try his luck with the Miami Dolphins.

He played in all four exhibition games for the Dolphins as a safety, but was cut prior to the start of the regular season.

“It’s always disappointing to get cut, you never want to be on the chopping block, you always try your hardest and feel like you can play anywhere,” Restelli said. “I don’t really know how close I was. I just know that every single day I went out there and gave it my 100%. I’m sure I made it a hard decision for them.”

Originally signing with the Eskimos in 2009, Restelli had a strong rookie season, recording 58 tackles and four sacks in 17 CFL games.

The following year, the product of California Polytechnic State University, suffered a knee injury two weeks into the season.

He returned for the last four games of the year before signing with the Dolphins in the off-season.

“There is always room here for good athletes,” said Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman. “Mark is a terrific defensive player, he has the ability to play in multiple spots. He’s an excellent special teams player and we welcome him back.”

The Eskimos were forced to make some room on the roster in order to fit Restelli in under the salary cup.

They released four players on Monday, including running back Daniel Porter and wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez. They also cut defensive lineman Robert Henderson and defensive back Denatay Heard, who had spent most of the year on the practice roster.

“It’s a tough part of the business, there is always a juggling act in terms of the ratio and in terms of the salary cap,” Tillman said. “Daniel did a lot of good things for us, he’s a terrific young man and we think he’ll have an opportunity to play somewhere else right away and we wish him the best.”

Restelli took to the practice field for the first time on Monday and could be in the lineup Friday when the Eskimos travel to Hamilton to take on the Tiger-Cats.

“We’ll see where he is at practice, we’ll see where he fits in the scheme,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. “We’re not going to rush him back, we’re going to take our time and be deliberate about it. We’ll see how he integrates. If he integrates well, then we’ll make a decision from there.

“We know he’s a very good special teamer, he’s one of the guys that brings a lot of energy. He’s one of the guys that when we watched filmed during the off-season, we identified him as our type of player. We’ll make certain that we monitor him on special teams and then see how he works with the defence.”

Reed was not happy about having to cut Porter. The import back fell victim to the salary cap with Restelli coming back from the NFL.

“It was a tough decision, Daniel Porter has done everything we’ve asked him to,” said Reed. “Unfortunately with our roster situation right now, with some injuries we’ve sustained in other positions and having the two Canadian backs that have produced and have done the things we’ve asked, it’s a matter of numbers, it’s not performance based.”

The Eskimos also announced the signing of non-import defensive back Ludovic Kashindi and import running back John Goebel. The two are expected to be part of the team’s practice roster.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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