On the right track

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

As much as Canadian football fans would like to see Jesse Lumsden succeed in the NFL, his signing in January by the Washington Redskins brought skepticism.

To the non-believers, it smacked of a no-hope assignment as a training camp tackling dummy.

It ultimately may still end up in disappointment for the Burlington native and former McMaster University star, especially if he is slow to recover from his latest injury.

But as Redskins training camp moves into the serious stages, the 220-pound running back has been turning heads rather than merely cracking them.

For his second shot at making it in the four-down game, Lumsden was determined to ignore the odds and make an impression with the storied NFC franchise.

And judging by the reaction throughout the Redskins coaching staff he has done just that.

IMPRESSIVE

Whether it is enough in the cutthroat world of NFL training camps will play itself out over the next few weeks.

Lumsden lost a chance to further impress last night when a hip flexor kept him out of the Redskins pre-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Injuries and lost opportunities can be lethal to a player in which a team has made only a minimal investment. It was a lesson Lumsden learned a year ago when he was cut by the Seattle Seahawks after banging up a knee and a hip.

This summer, the 24-year-old may have done enough to avoid an early mention on the transaction wire, however.

His effort in an organized scrimmage against the Baltimore Ravens a week ago got fans and coaches buzzing. A game-high 32 yards on six carries, including a 12-yard touchdown, drew praise from as high up in the organization as venerable head coach Joe Gibbs.

It likely would have earned him solid playing time last night against the Bengals, an assignment that will have to wait -- health willing -- until Saturday against the New York Jets.

That Lumsden is even being mentioned as a candidate for a roster spot is no small development. The Redskins are extremely deep at running back, led by Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright.

Then there is Toronto native Kerry Carter, who took his turn impressing coaches this past week and was expected to get a heavy workload last night.

For Lumsden, it is a far cry from a year ago when he was an over-hyped training camp invitee of the Seahawks. That attention didn't come from former Hec Crighton Award winner himself, but rather from a sizable scrum of Canadian media he had to sheepishly face at a spring mini camp.

A month after being cut, Lumsden went to the CFL not so much as a consolation but as a means to improve himself.

Thanks in part to the man who helped him blossom while at Mac, then Tiger-Cats coach Greg Marshall, Lumsden got a nice internship in pro football.

Modestly successful running the ball for the miserable Ticats, Lumsden learned what it was like to get hit by grown men rather than Ontario university players.

He also got a crash course in special teams, averaging 23.5 yards per kick return. That final stat was enough to catch the attention of Redskins director of pro personnel, Louis Riddick and re-open the gate to the NFL.

Unlike the Seattle experience, Lumsden has been able to keep a mostly lower profile this summer and in so doing, catch the critical eyes of those who matter most.

While Gibbs has weighed in on his efforts, it is the observations of others that may hold the most impact.

Special teams coach Danny Smith has been quick to use Lumsden on all units and has been impressed by his work ethic and football knowledge.

Offensive coordinator Al Saunders and running backs coach Earnest Byner also have seen enough to expand Lumsden's role to include some looks at fullback.

"We want to open his mind more to the offence and find the possibility of what he can do," Byner told the Virginia Pilot newspaper. "I liked him when we brought him in. We were looking for a big back and this guy is smart, intelligent and has legitimate speed."

Lumsden already knows there are no guarantees in the NFL. But with praise like that, no matter what happens over the next few weeks, the word is out: A tackling dummy he is not.


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