EDMONTON — A clean bill of health, an added jolt of confidence and a sparkling new contract have made Edmonton Eskimos rush end Marcus Howard a very happy man.
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I love the organization and I’m just happy to be a part of it,” said Howard who addressed the media earlier this week after signing a new deal with the Esks.
Howard’s excitement will be shared by the Green and Gold faithful, who are certainly looking forward to seeing their rising star wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks during the 2013 season and beyond.
Last year, however, fans were only treated to a small dose of the hulking six-foot-one, 245-pounder, as he appeared in only six games due to an injured hamstring.
Howard was able to return in time for the Esks’ season finale against the Stampeders and was in the lineup for their Eastern Semi-Final loss to the Argonauts, where he registered just one tackle.
The two games did wonders for his confidence, meaning it’s all systems go for Howard during the lengthy off-season.
“I have to get back to work right now,” said Howard.
“Continue to rehabbing and strengthening it so hopefully as the off-season continues it gets stronger and it holds up during the season,” he added.
In 2012, Howard picked up just six tackles and sack, a stark contrast to a promising 2011 campaign that saw him rack up 18 tackles and a team best 11 quarterback takedowns.
So what can everyone expect in 2013?
“Hopefully some good numbers,” said Howard with a laugh.
“But I feel like we have a great team with a great defensive line. We have Ted Laurent and Don Oramasionwu and me so it will be a great show,” he added.
Also on hand was Eskimos general manager Ed Hervey who – while maintaining his composure – seemed excited at the thought of having a player like Howard on his roster for the coming season.
“It’s extremely important. In football, you have to have a quarterback, but you also have to have people who can get to the quarterback and disrupt what they’re doing,” said Hervey.
“Marcus all throughout his career has shown that he definitely has the ability to do that. Obviously last year wasn’t his most memorable, but we know what’s in him and we know what he’s capable of doing.”
Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed echoed Hervey’s thoughts.
“Marcus is extremely explosive,” he said.
“Not only is he very explosive but he has a pass rush repertoire. All too often pass rushers become one or two dimensional in terms of what they rely on to beat protection. Marcus is a very cerebral guy on the field, he understands how to set up the opposition and he’s always in anticipation mode.”