Despite the 2013 campain having gone not exactly according to plan in Edmonton, there have been several reasons to smile if you're an Eskimos fan.
Case in point, quarterback Mike Reilly and Fred Stamps, who have both enjoyed solid campaigns wearing Green and Gold. But while those two have been grabbing the spotlight for the entire season, there's been another player who made an impact in a short amount of time.
After a 23 game absence because of a serious knee injury suffered in game two of the 2012 season in Regina, slotback Adarius Bowman made his return to the Eskimos lineup on Sept. 6.
Since then, all Bowman has done is pick up right where he left off. In five games this season, Bowman has 27 catches for 357 yards, and has scored two touchdowns.
Bowman says he’s clear from his injury issues and feeling confident.
“The knee is not even an issue, I’m feeling a lot like myself,” he said.”
Bowman tore both the MCL and ACL in his left knee. He tried to avoid surgery for most of the 2012 season just to see if he could somehow return to the field and help his team in their playoff run, but he was ultimately forced to go under the knife near the end of last season and missed the first nine games of 2013.
Does he feel better now than before his knee injury? Bowman says yes.
“I can say that with confidence that I’m better, as a whole,” Bowman said.
“You break it down into categories, there may be some categories that I’m less in, but as a whole, I’m better as a player. The way I approach the game, the way I treat my body now.”
The injury made Bowman self-analyze himself as a player. He says eats better; he tries to give his body a healthy dose of sleep every night and he enjoys watching film more than he did before.
Bowman simply feels better.
Head coach Kavis Reed says a healthy Bowman means having a strong presence back out on the football field again.
“Adarius, as we talked about when he wasn’t available, is an integral part of this offence and is an integral part of this team,” Reed explained.
“The energy that he brings, the emotional lift that he brings to this football team, the leadership that he brings, he’s absolutely wonderful in the locker room. We know Adarius is important to this football team.”
Bowman is a dream for an offensive coordinator and a nightmare for defensive coordinators. He’s turned his game around from being a receiver with loads of ability but left you wanting more.
He dropped too many passes early in his career and by his own admission, he needed to grow up.
Bowman has matured and become a leader on and off the field. On the field, he’s an imposing presence. Physical and tough, he's a matchup problem for defences, and yes, he has a good set of hands now. There’s no reason to believe that he won’t return to the form that saw him rack up 1,000 yards of two years ago.
Bowman is a fun loving person; he’s the poor man’s Odell Willis, he has some class clown in his demeanor. Make no mistake; Bowman knows when it’s time to be all-business.
His positive and upbeat nature is infectious and he sets a good example about having the right work ethic for his teammates.
Meanwhile, Edmonton's playoff picture is bleak. To qualify for the playoffs, the Eskimos need to win all of their four remaining games (Saskatchewan twice, Calgary, and BC) and have the team they are chasing, the Montreal Alouettes, lose all of their remaining four games.
Despite the massive improbability of the Eskimos post-season formula, Bowman says as long as his team has a shot, he believes his team is good enough to be in the playoffs.
This week, Bowman returns to the place where he suffered his severe knee injury in Week 2 of the 2012 season. In Bowman fashion, he’s focused on getting a win at Mosaic Stadium and not living in the past.
“I’m looking at it as the next game, it just so happens that it’s in Saskatchewan,” he said. “I’m going to continue to be myself and play even harder because it’s the next one and we need this one,”
Words coming from a true professional.
NOTES: It looks like for the first time in seven games, Grant Shaw will handle all three kicking duties Saturday in Regina. Hugh O’Neill has been kicking field goals but has only made 64.3% of his attempts. Shaw has been successful on 77.8% of his attempts. As a team, the Eskimos sit at 73.8% on the season in field goal conversion which is 5th in the CFL. Wide receiver Marcus Henry is doubtful against the Riders because of an upper-body injury. Fellow receiver Cary Koch is not expected to be activated from the nine-game injured list because of a knee injury.
Dave Campbell has been on the Eskimos beat since 2004. He’s entering his seventh season as the Eskimo colour analyst for 630 CHED broadcasts. He also hosts The Points After Show, an openline post-game show. Follow Dave on Twitter @Dave_CHED.