Eskimos in contract talks with Messam

Jerome Messam is back in Edmonton but there are contract negotiations to settle before the Eskimos...

Jerome Messam is back in Edmonton but there are contract negotiations to settle before the Eskimos can expand their running back roster. (Perry Mah, QMI FILES)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:51 PM ET

EDMONTON - The worst passing team in the CFL can’t wait to add another star running back.

To some, that might seem like topping off the gas tank to fix a flat tire, but head coach Kavis Reed believes in strength in numbers.

Especially when the newest numbers are those of a 6-4, 248 pounder who can rush for 1,000 yards and comes from north of the 49th parallel.

Jerome Messam is the kind of impact player CFL teams make room for no matter what their backfield situation, so even though the Eskimos ground attack is flush already, they want the 2011 Outstanding Canadian back in Edmonton.

Messam, fresh from his ill-fated tryout with the Miami Dolphins, is here already, but as of Monday afternoon was not an Eskimo yet. He and the organization are still trying to hammer out a contract.

“He’s in town, that’s pretty much it, we don’t know whether he’s going to be a part of practice (Thursday) or not,” said Reed. “Eric (Tillman) is working on that, but there are no guarantees. He might decide he wants to go to Toronto.”

That fact he’s in town says the Esks are his first choice, and Reed “anticipates” Messam will eventually sign, but the coach has been around the game long enough to know that nothing is done until the ink is dry.

“We’re confident he will probably be a part of this team, it’s just premature to say when.”

If the deal gets done, Edmonton’s backfield will be the envy of the league, featuring the three-headed attack of Messam, Hugh Charles and Cory Boyd.

Charles and Boyd, recently acquired from the Toronto Argos, are currently third and fourth in league rushing.

“It’s a good problem to have,” said Reed. “We have depth at that position where a couple of weeks ago we only had one person. It’s a good situation going down the stretch. Given our injury situation throughout the year, we’ll probably need to call on that.”

The question now is whether Messam will be ready straight out of the box or whether he’ll need time to rediscover his CFL timing.

He was the first Canadian to rush for 1,000 yards in 11 years and gave Edmonton some excellent ratio flexibility last season, but that was then and this is now.

“Jerome was a big part of our team last year, but this team has morphed a bit,” said Reed. “Jerome decided he wanted to try the NFL and we moved on. Right now he has to be re-integrated.

“All too often when players leave and come back from the NFL they’re not the same person. We’re hoping and praying that Jerome is the same individual who left here, but we don’t know that.

“He hasn’t played football in almost a calendar year. He hasn’t gone through a training camp. The quality of reps he got in Miami might not have been sufficient to put him back into football shape. There are a lot of unanswered questions.”

Then there’s the question of just how eager is Reed to shake up what is already a pretty solid backfield coming off a win?

The answer to that one is easy: Not very.

“We don’t have an injury situation, so there is nothing pressing,” said Reed. “Our backs had a very good game against Toronto. We’re not going to break something for the sake of breaking it. So for us it’s going to be about prudence … whether or not we feel we can get the productivity and quality reps out of him right now.

“This is a critical game. We need to execute at a very high level to have a chance at winning. For that reason we want to make certain we’re not upsetting the chemistry.”

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ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca


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