EDMONTON — Believe it or not, Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Matt Nichols plans to be on the field with his teammates come training camp in June.
The news comes only four months after Nichols dislocated his left ankle and fractured his fibula on the same play during the Esks’ Eastern Semi-Final loss to the Argonauts at Rogers Centre back in November.
Nichols, who had remained quiet about his condition until last week, underwent successful surgery on Feb. 7 to remove a screw from his left ankle, allowing him to update his status and give everyone a better idea about where he is in the road to recovery.
“I think being here, first of all, with the trainers and being able to work with these guys every day, I think I’ve made huge strides over the last few weeks,” the 25-year-old quarterback said.
“Now I’m able to start jogging, doing ladder drills, some jumping. I think I’m progressing very well and, it being middle February, I feel very comfortable with where I’m at right now.”
Prior to suffering his injury in the third quarter of what would be Edmonton’s final game of the 2012 campaign, Nichols emerged as a leading candidate to take over the Eskimos’ starting position under centre in 2013. The Redding, CA. native put up solid numbers in limited action, completing 48 of his 83 passes for 884 yards and seven touchdowns. He also showed flashes of brilliance in a relief effort for Kerry Joseph in a Week 18 contest in Montreal, completing nine passes for 230 yards and three majors, including a last-second strike to Fred Stamps in the endzone to put the Esks within two points of completing a dramatic comeback.
However, his performance in 2012 wasn’t enough to convince Ed Hervey that he was the right man to lead the Green and Gold in 2013, as the GM went out and acquired former BC backup pivot Mike Reilly in a trade earlier this month.
Despite the unexpected arrival of competition, Nichols is confident that he will be still be ready to compete with Reilly for the starting job come June.
“In this business, you’re always going to have to compete for a job,” said Nichols.
“I’ve competed to make this team the past couple of years and to find myself in a position this year competing to be the guy is an exciting step forward for me,” he continued.
“Mike is a friend of mine…I know what he can do and it’s going to be a really exciting time and I think we’re going to work extremely well together,” he added.
While Reilly and Nichols will be in competition with each other to become Edmonton’s top guy, veteran Kerry Joseph will be there to lend them a guiding hand in the process.
Last season saw Joseph take over the starting role after Steven Jyles was unable to give the Esks the offensive punch they needed.
However, with Hervey’s desire to get younger at the position, Joseph will assume a mentorship role in 2013, something Nichols believes is crucial to the team’s success.
“(Kerry) has been huge in my growth as a CFL player and I think whoever ends up playing this year will have some great support from the guys behind him.”
For now, at least, Nichols is simply focused on rehabbing his ankle in time for camp so he can get back on the gridiron and help the Esks.
“As of right now there’s no reason to believe that there would be anything long-term that would affect me,” he said. “I’m pretty close to being 100 per cent in the next month, in my opinion.”
“Obviously, there’s doctors’ opinions and my opinion and I feel great. I feel like there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m going to be ready to play.”