Kabongo 'ready' if needed

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:50 AM ET

EDMONTON - A couple of veteran faces returned to the starting lineup at Edmonton Eskimos practice this week.

Injuries were the reason offensive guard Patrick Kabongo and linebacker T.J. Hill returned to the first-team offence and defence.

In Hill’s case, he was removed from the nine-game injured list — an option made available to each CFL club once per half of the season — and is a healthy option for Monday’s game.

And in Kabongo’s, it was a matter of filling in for the injured Greg Wojt, whose ankle was at the bottom of a pile earlier in the week.

“Patrick has been very good with the situation,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed, who removed Kabongo from a starting role at left guard after the bye week in Week 9.

The Eskimos had been on a three-game losing streak at the time after starting the season 5-0.

Since the break, they have gone 2-3.

“He has been a consummate professional in that he has continued to work hard,” Reed said. “In fact, I think he’s worked harder since being removed from the starting lineup and I really feel that if he has to play there won’t be a significant dropoff.

“I think Pat is a seasoned veteran that would give us just as much as Greg would.”

Which isn’t news to Kabongo, at all.

“What, you guys think I wasn’t focused before, or I wasn’t pushing myself?” Kabongo said. “I was always doing that. They made a decision and there’s nothing I can do about it.

“I love to play. I’ve been on the sideline, watching and getting a lot of mental reps. Was I ready before? Yes. And am I ready now? Yes.”

But it will be a game-time decision for coaches whether or not he replaces Wojt Monday against the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“It’s one of those day-to-day things,” said Reed said of his injured starter. “He will be on the roster, we really feel that there is a strong possibility he will play.

“We didn’t need to take any chances and nothing really schematically has changed, so we’ll wait and see on Monday whether or not he’s ready to go.”

Hill’s presence has been sorely missed over the last three games, which he sat out due to a shoulder injury that involved nerve damage.

“When you have a veteran like T.J., who is also one of your defensive leaders, it brings a certain level of confidence to the players having him out there,” Reed said. “The coaches, obviously, are very happy to have a leader back out there. He’s another coach on the field.”

Reed said it was an easy decision using his one get-out-of-jail-free card to bring Hill back off the nine-game.

“It was a no-brainer,” Reed said. “It looked bleak when we put him on the nine-game injured list but he responded very well to treatment. The nerves regenerated fast, fortunately for us.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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