CALGARY — Jesse Lumsden is easing back into the CFL.
The Canadian-born tailback joined the Calgary Stampeders’ practice roster Tuesday. Lumsden hasn’t played football since injuring his shoulder in the Edmonton Eskimos’ season-opening game last year.
But while he was seen as a franchise player in his previous stops in Hamilton and Edmonton, Lumsden says his situation in Calgary is a lot different.
“My role is different than it was in the past, but it’s about wanting to play football.” the 28-year-old said Tuesday after his first practice wearing the red and white. “This is the role I’m accepting and enjoying because I’m back on the football field.”
The Edmonton native has generally been considered one of the CFL’s best running backs when healthy, but that’s been an issue during his career.
He played one game for Edmonton last season, running for five yards on two carries and three receptions for 20 yards before suffering the season-ending shoulder injury.
Before signing as a free agent with the Eskimos, Lumsden played 19 games over his final two seasons in Hamilton because of consecutive season-ending shoulder surgeries. The six-foot-three, 228-pound tailback also battled knee and ankle injuries with the Tiger-Cats.
While rehabilitating his most recent shoulder surgery, he caught on with the national bobsleigh team. Lumsden was a brakeman for pilot Pierre Lueders at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where they finished fifth in the two-man and four-man events.
Edmonton released Lumsden prior to training camp this year. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers made an offer to Lumsden, but he turned that down to go Calgary, which is also where the national bobsled team trains.
However, because of his long layoff from the sport, Lumsden is an unknown quantity in football right now. So he’s keeping his options open in bobsleigh.
“It’s not a secret that I’m a two-sport athlete now,” Lumsden said. “I’m going to continue to slide. Not only is home base for bobsleigh here, but Calgary is a place that I can see myself after football, which I did take into consideration.
“I have come out to Calgary for a couple of bobsleigh camps for physical testing camps, but I let them know football is my priority. It’s something we’re going to have to look into in terms of my scheduling. I’m not making any promises, but I’m going to work to be the best in both.”
There’s no pressure on Lumsden to make an immediate impact with the Stampeders, who are already deep at running back. Joffrey Reynolds recently became the club’s all-time rushing leader while Canadian Jon Cornish has shown to be a more than capable backup.
What’s more, Calgary (9-2) is atop the West Division standings and sports the CFL’s best record.
Calgary head coach-GM John Hufnagel wouldn’t define Lumsden’s signing as insurance against injury to either Reynolds or Cornish, but that is a possible scenario.
“I think we have to find out things about Jesse and he has a lot to learn,” Hufnagel said. “I didn’t bring Jesse in expecting him to be in the lineup in the near future, but if he was called upon at this time, he’s just like every other person that’s on the practice roster.
“They need to be prepared to play if needed.”
Lumsden was selected in the first round, sixth overall, by Hamilton in the 2005 CFL Canadian college draft. He appeared in 30 games over four seasons with the Ticats, rushing for 1,797 yards and nine TDs on 185 carries while registering 49 catches for 630 yards and two touchdowns before joining Edmonton in 2009.
Lumsden captured the Hec Crighton Trophy as Canadian university football’s top player in 2004 and left McMaster as the all-time leading rusher in Ontario conference history.
“He’s probably one of the best athletes I’ve ever met that were Canadian actually,” Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris said. “Probably the greatest ever.
“The biggest thing he is going to have to do is be patient. (This) was something he felt was a good option for him right now, to get himself ready, get his body right, get his mind right, get back into the swing of things and the world wasn’t on his shoulders. It’s a good situation for him coming to a team that’s doing some good things.”
Lumsden says playing behind Reynolds and Cornish is a situation similar to his early university career at McMaster where he was a third-stringer behind Kojo Aidoo and Kyle Pyear.
“Now I’m coming into the same situation here with Joffrey and Jon, both great running backs,” Lumsden said. “I’m always learning.”
Dan Ralph in Toronto contributed to this report.