Jeanty rejoins Eskimos

Rashad Jeanty is returning to the Esks after leaving several years ago to play in the NFL. (Brendon...

Rashad Jeanty is returning to the Esks after leaving several years ago to play in the NFL. (Brendon Dlouhy/QMI Agency/Files)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

EDMONTON - Rashad Jeanty is hoping to pick up right where he left off.

And the Edmonton Eskimos wouldn’t mind, either, as the two-time Grey Cup champion returned to Commonwealth Stadium on Wednesday for the first time since 2005.

“It’s very different, different for the best,” Jeanty said in the Eskimos dressing room that was renovated in 2010. “Looking around this place, there’s a lot of upgrades.”

Unfortunately, the on-field product on display in the stadium had taken a downturn for much of his absence.

“It was tough seeing us go through a bad stretch with a couple of years of losing,” said Jeanty, who helped push the Eskimos’ North American record post-season appearances to 34, only to watch the streak end right after he left. “I definitely kept up with Edmonton.

“Walking in these doors, there’s a saying: ‘Once an Eskimo, always an Eskimo.’ ”

The six-foot-two, 243-pound Central Florida product joined the Eskimos as an undrafted free agent in 2003, winning a pair of championships in a three-year stint that resulted in a shot at the NFL.

Jeanty transitioned right into a starting linebacker spot with the Cincinnati Bengals the next season, spending four seasons on the squad.

“It was nerve-wracking at first,” Jeanty said of switching from his place on the defensive line. “I was blessed to have some great guys around me, as well as coaches, to nurture me into being the best linebacker that I can be.”

But his career was interrupted in the 2010 AFC Wild Card playoff game, where Jeanty fractured his leg on the opening kickoff against the New York Jets.

He spent the following season rehabbing the injury and was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011.

He played in three of four preseason games before being one of the last heads on the chopping block.

“Playing in the NFL, that was a goal of mine and Edmonton definitely blessed me and gave me the opportunity to better my skills,” Jeanty said. “I had an opporunity to play in the NFL and took advantage of that, but now I’m back here and that’s all that counts.”

It was a veteran-laden corps he shared the locker-room with the first time around.

“I just kind of soaked up all that I could in a short span of three years that I was here and kind of used that in my life.,” Jeanty said. “I kind of matured and took it along with me.”

And now, the 28-year-old finds himself in the veteran role.

“I’m not a guy who talked too much, but I let my skills and my work ethic speak for itself,” he said. “Hopefully guys will pull along with me as well as push me to my limits.”

And with a stable of names at defensive end that include Greg Peach, Julius Williams and Marcus Howard, training camp promises to have plenty of pushing.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about this team,” Jeanty said. “A lot of things to be proud of and a lot of things to build on.

“I’m looking forward to it.”

Twitter@Sun_Moddejonge


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