Graeme Bell is hopeful that he will play pro football again, possibly as soon as this season.
The Blue Bombers running back and special teams ace spoke with the Winnipeg media yesterday for the first time since being randomly beaten by a bat-wielding goon outside a bar on May 12 in his hometown of Saskatoon.
Bell said his doctor has told him he will be able to play football again, and he is optimistic that a CAT scan today in Saskatoon will bring even more good news.
"I've not written off this year," Bell said yesterday from his family home. "The doctor (today) is going to inform me about where my brain is at.
"... I want to play football again, and the doctors know that. They're instructing me on how to get back and play."
Despite spending four days in hospital and undergoing surgery, Bell basically suffered what he calls a "severe concussion." The good news is he isn't experiencing headaches or dizziness that are synonymous with post-concussion syndrome.
"The doctors had said that I would get headaches for the first few months, but I haven't had a headache yet," Bell said. "The doctors have basically said that I'm farther along than most people would be for this injury."
The 26-year-old hasn't done any rigorous exercise since the attack, but he does goes on daily 90-minute walks. He is still tired more often than not, but his excellent fitness level, his doctors say, is the likely reason why he's recovering so quickly.
The scariest repercussion for Bell, who hopes to be in Winnipeg this weekend, was his inability to speak for a few days after the attack. Bell can speak again, but several times during yesterday's conference call he had to pause while waiting for the words to get from his brain to his mouth.
"It's very scary when you got hit on the head and you can't talk," he said. "All that can come out of your mouth is mumbles and things like that. I could see the sentence in my mind, but I couldn't vocalize it, and that was very scary.
"I don't have it back now. I can't say some big words. If two words are spaced together I have trouble saying them in a row.
"But it's coming along. I get up every day, I read the paper out loud, and my family laughs at me because they read the paper as I'm reading it out loud. But it's getting better, and that's the biggest thing. Day to day I can see that my vocabulary is getting better."
While Bell wants to get back on the football field for his third CFL season, returning to normal health is his No. 1 priority.
"I'm lucky to be here, and that's what my biggest thing is: returning back to where I was," he said.
"Football is second to this. I want to get back to how I was and then step foot on the field and play out there in Winnipeg again."
Bell remembers everything about the attack, including "hopping into the ambulance," but he wouldn't get into specifics because it's an ongoing criminal investigation.
Bell left a bar just after closing time on May 12 in search of a cab. There were none outside the bar he was at, but he noticed some at an establishment down the street and headed that way.
Moments earlier, a man with a bat had attacked several people outside the bar that Bell was walking towards. The suspect was apparently fleeing the scene when he came across Bell.
"I was going to a cab, and this guy came out of nowhere," Bell said. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had no choice in being there.
"I just want to get through this and get back on with my life. Basically I've told the cops I'll do anything I can for this situation, but I just want to get on with where I was and where I was going with my life.
"... Health is my biggest concern, but football is on the heart."