Fleet-footed Freddie Reid could have started at tailback for a number of CFL squads last year.
But he spent most of the season backing up the man the Blue Bombers call Blink while returning kickoffs and covering kicks. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Mississippi State product also filled in admirably when Charles Roberts suffered a rare injury.
Reid's performance earned him a tryout with the Buffalo Bills last winter -- as an option-year player with an NFL window.
"They called me out of the blue -- I didn't expect it at all -- about a week before I was to go up there," Reid said at training camp yesterday. "So I had to train a little earlier than planned. But I went up there and they worked me out and I did pretty good. They said they'd get back in touch with me."
They never did.
"I'm not disappointed," said Reid, 26. "I know I have to come back and work harder before I can expect another opportunity next off-season ... I've just got to keep doing what I've been doing and hopefully, they call me back."
Reid started two games for Roberts last year, rushing for 196 yards and two touchdowns in those. Reid finished with 40 carries for 270 yards (a 6.8-yard average) and two majors.
Despite that impressive showing he was not about to demand a trade, even with at least two other CFL teams seeking a starting tailback.
Happy to be back
"I'm happy to be back in Winnipeg right now," said the Tampa, Fla., native. "It might take a little bit longer but all I can do is wait my turn for me in the future. And we've got a good chance (for a Grey Cup ring). I thought I was going to get one last year, I was so excited. But we're looking pretty good and we're looking like we can go make another run."
To keep Reid happy, the Bombers will give him even more work on special teams as he will be given a crack at returning punts this season.
"Other than that, Charles Roberts is our tailback and I know Fred knows that," said head coach Doug Berry. "But Fred is learning everything we do, he's very good at what we do and he gives us great depth. In terms of keeping him happy, we're doing all we can."
Reid returned nine kickoffs for 213 yards (23.7-yard average) last year but didn't return any punts.
Reid was also a suprisingly effective tackler while covering kicks last year. He finished tied for fourth in team special teams tackles with 13.
"I actually never did that before I got here," Reid revealed. "I just go out wherever they put me and I do my best and give it my all. It showed and it paid off on special teams. I had a tremendous number of tackles last year and hopefully, I'll do the same this year ... But I just do what I have to do right now."
One of those things is learning from one of the CFL's all-time best rushers.
"You look at Charlie and I hope the best for him," he said. "I hope he stays healthy. But if they need me to go in there if he goes down again, I'll go in there and play hard again."