The last time Shamawd Chambers played in a game for the Edmonton Eskimos, he was named Canadian MVP of the 2015 Grey Cup.
While it’s not nearly so grandiose a stage, it would have been nice for the sixth-year CFLer to have played in Sunday’s pre-season game to officially mark his on-field return to the club that drafted him sixth overall in 2012.
Instead, the 28-year-old Wilfrid Laurier product sat out with a hamstring injury that sidelined him for all but the first four days of training camp.
“It would have been nice to actually go for the whole training camp, I kind of feel new here,” said Chambers, who followed former Eskimos head coach Chris Jones and his staff to Regina last year, only to be released ahead of February’s free-agency window and landing back in green and gold. “It might be my sixth year, but you want to be able to show the coaches exactly what you can do even though they’ve obviously seen film and they kind of know me better just because of me being in the building before.”
Plenty has changed since then. Not only is there a new head coach in — and system to learn under — Jason Maas, but the general manager who brought him back is no longer here anymore, as Brock Sunderland replaced Ed Hervey in April.
So, yeah. Chambers wasn’t too happy with getting injured early on in training camp.
“I’m thankful that I’m back and I’m ready to go,” said Chambers, who suffered a much more serious anterior cruciate ligament injury that forced him to miss 19 games across the 2014-15 seasons before returning just in time to make the Grey Cup push. “I feel like coming back from an ACL injury kind of prepared me for anything. So, I’m not really worried about anything, actually.
“My goals haven’t changed in terms of what I want to be doing for this year, and I’m just going to continue to work when I get out here, work in the meeting rooms and make sure I’m at the front of the classroom so all these guys know that I’m still connected to this team.”
His return to practice means that, on Thursday, he will get one pre-season game under his belt, at least, when the Eskimos take on the Blue Bombers (6:30 p.m., 630 CHED) in Winnipeg — which happened to be the site of the 2015 Grey Cup.
“This is a system that I’m very familiar with because we’ve already been playing in it,” Chambers said. “Obviously, the terminology and the communication and the details are a lot more than I’m used to, but when you sit up stairs in a meeting room or down here on the field, we all communicate pretty well, so it hasn’t been very hard to get this done.
“I’m just excited to be able to get out there and play.”
At the same time, it was difficult to have to watch Sunday’s 36-35 loss to the Calgary Stampeders from the sidelines.
“I definitely wanted to be out there in front of this crowd, right? I’ve been waiting for that for a long time,” said Chambers, whose last home game with the Eskimos was a 45-31 win over the Stampeders in the 2015 West Division final. “But it’s humbling, and if there weren’t trials, it wouldn’t be my life. So it doesn’t really stress me out at all.
“I’ve kind of learned over the years — especially after last year — that sometimes you can’t treat things as too high or too low, you’ve got to start being a little bit even with it,” said Chambers, who is coming off of a 5-13 letdown with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. “I’m a little bit older now, so I get what’s going on and I will be ready.”
For even bigger things to come, no doubt.
“No question, we felt Shamawd was going to be a big part of what we do this year,” Maas said. “It’s hard to get a gauge on what he can do based on the limited reps he’s had, but I feel very confident when Shamawd’s healthy and Shamawd can go, he’s going to be a big contributor for us.
“But he ultimately has to stay healthy and has to be 100 per cent in order for us to have that happen.”
NEXT UP: The Eskimos will walk through at Commonwealth Stadium in preparation for Thursday’s pre-season game on the road against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.