Not so happy return

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

EDMONTON -- When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers fly out of the Alberta capital this morning, it will be an all too familiar sight for Brock Ralph.

The Bomber slotback has been traded out of town twice by the Eskimos since 2005 -- once to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the other time, just this past February, to Winnipeg.

While trades are often no big deal to pro athletes, Ralph's situation is different.

His four-year-old daughter, Oakley, suffers from autism. That she could get treatment immediately in Alberta but not in Ontario was the reason the Tiger-Cats traded him back to Edmonton in February 2008.

It certainly wasn't because of his play, as the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Raymond, Alta., native led the Tabbies with 50 catches for 721 yards in 2007.

So it was easy to understand the 28-year-old's frustration when the Eskimos sent him packing again earlier this year, just 12 months after he returned to his home province and better treatment options for his daughter.

"Waiting lists get tricky up here, especially with out-of-province moves, but even in-province," Ralph said. "It put us in a situation where we were either going to have to keep everybody in Edmonton and myself just go out (to Winnipeg) or else send them down and get therapy right away there in the States."

The rest of the family decided to move to his wife's hometown of Casper, Wyo., where Oakley could get immediate treatment. That means Ralph is all on his own for the first time in his seven-year CFL career.

"That's one of the not-so-fun parts of the profession, especially in my case," Ralph said outside of Commonwealth Stadium the other day. "I've been traded out of here twice, so whenever you get traded it makes for a lot of change and a lot of sacrifice, especially when there's more than you involved.

'Struggled'

"I struggled with it for the first little bit, but now it is what it is and I'm going to try to embrace all the positives that have come out of the deal and some of the changes."

One of those positives is being able to have a singular focus while in Winnipeg.

"Last year, playing here and doing my thing here and then going home, there was a lot on the plate," he said. "I hope football reaps some benefit from the change."

Ralph endured an injury-plagued 2008 campaign with the Eskimos, hauling in only 13 catches for 164 yards and no touchdowns. He also missed both pre-season games this year with an undisclosed ailment, but he's healthy and ready to go.

There was another silver lining to the trade.

Since Ralph was on the nine-game injured list last year but able to practise, it meant he got a lot of on-one-time with Edmonton's third-string quarterback, who just so happens to be new Winnipeg starter Stefan LeFors.

They got off to a slow start, as Ralph didn't have any catches in last night's season-opener against the Eskimos. He did rush twice for 34 yards.

Ralph was looking to make a mark against his former team. Even though he wouldn't say it, it's obvious he holds some resentment towards the Esks.

"I'm not going to choose to hold any grudges," Ralph said, "and hold an organization accountable for some of the decisions that were made with me, but ..."


Photos