Jesse Lumsden signs

Don Wassall

Staff member
Sep 30, 2004
This is very sad news

Latest injury may mean the end for Lumsden

Bruce Arthur, National Post Published:Friday, July 03, 2009

When Jesse Lumsden was young, everything was in front of him. Well, until he ran past it, which happened pretty often. On one fine autumn day back at McMaster, the Marauders trailed by a touchdown to Queen's after surrendering a 99-yard passing touchdown with maybe 30 seconds left. In the sideline huddle, McMaster coach Greg Marshall looked at Jesse and said, "Go back and take it to the house." Jesse said, "OK."

So Jesse went back there and fielded the kick and ran 108 yards, veering left and then right, for an overtime-forcing touchdown. He was a head-shaking combination of size and speed, and against the lesser kids playing for Queen's or Guelph or Waterloo, Jesse Lumsden was capable of such miracles.

That feels so long ago, now. On Thursday night, Lumsden was playing his first game for the Edmonton Eskimos. His previous two campaigns, with Hamilton, had been cut short by separate shoulder surgeries; this was his chance at a rebirth. It was a one-year deal.

He didn't get through one quarter. Just 14 minutes and 27 seconds into Edmonton's first game of the year, with a light rain falling and his parents in the stands, Lumsden took a short pass from Ricky Ray, squared his shoulders to head upfield, and got drilled by Winnipeg linebacker Siddeeq Shabazz. It was not a dirty hit. It was not a particularly vicious hit. It dislocated Lumsden's surgically repaired left shoulder.

"My gut says it's over," Matt Dunigan, TSN's CFL analyst said with sadness in his voice, "because that was a simple football play."

There is no specific prognosis, and more tests have been ordered. But it's not good.

Jesse Lumsden has now played parts of five seasons in the Canadian Football League. He spent most of his first two seasons trying to catch on in the NFL - the first year with Seattle, he sprained a hip and was released by the team; the second year, he was slowed by a groin injury, and Washington let him go. Both seasons, he finished the season in Canada.

He hasn't done so since. In 2007, Lumsden played nine games in which he often looked like the best back the league had seen in ages, averaging 7.6 yards per carry. But he injured his left shoulder and clavicle and missed three games; he came back, and hurt the shoulder again, tearing his labrum.

"It was a freak thing and my shoulder popped out and then when I hit the ground it popped back in," Lumsden told The Hamilton Spectator at the time. "It was rotten unlucky luck because all I did was put my arm up against one of the guys."

After that injury, Lumsden underwent season-ending surgery, and came back. In 2008, Lumsden played nine games before tearing his labrum again, in a different spot. He underwent season-ending surgery again.

There were other injuries along the way - ankle, hip, knee, groin - but the shoulder appears to be his weakest point. Lumsden looks built for football - 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, breakaway speed, powerful enough that he is working to join Pierre Lueders on Canada's Olympic bobsled team. His father, Neil, was a fine CFL player. Jesse looked like he could be better. He seemed, a long time ago, to be born for this.

Five years into his career, he has never carried the ball more than 98 times in a CFL season. He has played just 32 career CFL games. And for all anybody knows, that might be the end of it.

The easy comparison is Eric Lindros, but at least Lindros won a Hart Trophy, played in a Stanley Cup final, had a chance. Dunigan, who retired because of concussions, had a chance. If healthy, Jesse Lumsden could have been among the greatest running backs in CFL history; a pounding home-run threat with an instinct for the hole.

But he has never been healthy. For all his genius, you can't find the hole unless there is no hesitation, no fear. It's hard to see how that is possible, anymore. It's a shame, because the CFL never has so many stars - much less homegrown stars - that losing one is not a sad day. Eskimos coach Richie Hall, after Thursday's game, told the media "there's still going to be a lot of life in Jesse."

Life, yes. But football, no matter how much you love it, isn't life. Jesse Lumsden is just 26 years old, but as an athlete, he seems to be dying young. He'll try again, because that's who he is. But I agree with Dunigan. It feels like it's over.

I hope we're wrong. I wrote a feature about Jesse in 2004. We sat in the empty bleachers at McMaster's practice field and talked for a couple hours. He was at once childlike and mature then. He was on his way to a geography degree, with an eye towards teaching as a backup plan. He also had six Spider-Man figurines strewn around his room, and a Spider-Man pillowcase as well.

And he loved football so much that on nights when he could not sleep, Lumsden would flick around until he found some West Coast college football game, any football game, on TV. He would watch tape of his blocking with his father, with an eye towards improvement. But that seemingly perfect football body, whether due to bad luck or hidden flaws, has been a shell, either rotten unlucky or prone to cracks. He was born to do this, he thought. Maybe he wasn't.


Hall of Famer
Jan 9, 2005
The Deep South
Dang I hate to hear this. Jesse may hurt himself really bad if he keeps this up. It sickens me that this kind of stuff happens to one of the best out there.


Hall of Famer
Oct 23, 2005
f**k. it's just our luck... Staley, Lumsden, these were two MAJOR talents who were on the verge of breaking in, and injuries messed it all up *on top of caste system, not that it needs any help or excuse*

Don Wassall

Staff member
Sep 30, 2004
Lumsden update:

Eskimos release Lumsden


Jesse Lumsden isn't giving up on football.

The Edmonton Eskimos released the oft-injured running back Wednesday a year after beating out Toronto, Winnipeg and Hamilton to sign him as a free agent. But the Edmonton native's homecoming lasted just one quarter as the 27-year-old suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in his Eskimos debut and has yet to be cleared medically to resume playing.

"I'm not saying no to football, I'm not done yet," Lumsden said during a conference call. "I'm a football player. That's one thing I pride myself on.

"It would be easy for me to quit and walk away from football and do something else but I love the sport and truly feel I belong in the sport still. To say I'm disappointed would be an understatement ... but I don't think my time is done yet."

The former Hec Crighton Trophy winner as Canadian university's top player said his surgeon hasn't given him medical clearance to resume playing.

"I had met with him (surgeon) and he hadn't cleared me for contact about a week and a half ago and I'm going to meet with him again at the end of the month," he said. "He said the surgery went very well and he's very pleased with where I'm at, he just wants to get me a little bit stronger.

"The Eskimos' decision going off their medical staff feel it's a chance they're not willing to take and it's a business decision on their part. I'm going to continue to rehab and train and work out and get ready for a football season, wherever and whenever that may be for me."

Eskimos GM Danny Maciocia said Lumsden was released for medical reasons and not to save money. Lumsden was entering his option year and reportedly poised to earn a six-figure base salary.

"What makes this so tough is knowing you're dealing with such a great guy," Maciocia said. "But at the same time you're five weeks out from training camp and you know you need to have healthy bodies going into camp and can't bring in anybody who's not physically ready to compete.

"The way we were structured with our cap, we could've carried him but a healthy Jesse Lumsden ... doctors are forewarning me now that there was no way he'd be ready."

The six-foot-two, 226-pound Lumsden -- who grew up in Burlington, Ont., and competed for Canada in the two- and four-man bobsleigh events at the Vancouver Winter Games -- has the rare combination of speed and size that makes him a threat going wide while also being able to get the tough yards inside. When healthy, the 27-year-old is among the CFL's best.

Trouble is, staying healthy has been a problem.

Before signing with Edmonton, he played just 19 games over his final two seasons in Hamilton due to consecutive season-ending shoulder operations. Lumsden rushed for 584 yards on 87 carries (6.7-yard average) with five touchdowns in 2008 for the Tiger-Cats after running for 743 yards on 98 carries (7.6-yard average) and three TDs in 2007.

Lumsden also battled knee and ankle injuries in Hamilton and prior to coming to the CFL hip ailments hampered him during NFL tryouts with both the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins.

Still, the Eskimos hoped Lumsden -- whose father, Neil, was a former fullback with the Edmonton club -- would give the offence balance and bolster an anaemic running attack that in 2008 was the CFL's worst, averaging just 85.2 yards per game. By comparison, the franchise led the league in passing, averaging 335.1 yards per game with quarterback veteran Ricky Ray.

The addition of Lumsden was to give Edmonton the luxury of going with an all-Canadian backfield with fullback Mathieu Bertrand, with reliable veteran Calvin McCarty, a B.C. native, available in the wings.

Edmonton's run game improved to sixth overall in 2009 (107.4 yards per game) thanks in large part to rookie Arkee Whitlock. He was third among CFL rushers with 1,293 yards while averaging a sparkling 6.1 yards per carry.

The emergence of Whitlock and presence of both veteran McCarty and young American Ramonce Taylor made Lumsden expendable.

Lumsden, Hamilton's first-round pick in the 2005 CFL Canadian college draft, rushed for 1,797 yards and nine touchdowns over four seasons with the Ticats.

Edmonton certainly didn't do Lumsden any favours with the timing of his release, given the CFL draft concluded Sunday and training camps are set to open in less than a month.

"The timing isn't great," Lumsden said. "But this is part of the nasty side of the business, to be released before training camp and after a draft.

"But I'm not going to let it deter me."

In fact, Lumsden plans to use his situation as motivation although he says he has yet to contact other CFL teams.

"For anybody who knows me on a personal level I'm just going to use this as a stepping stone and try to create an opportunity out of it," he said.

That opportunity isn't likely to include a return to Hamilton even though Lumsden was a fan favourite there. Rookie DeAndra' Cobb emerged as a solid running threat last year, rushing for 1,217 yards and averaging over five yards a carry. The Ticats also have veteran Kenton Keith under contract.

Toronto, though, could be a more likely destination.

Veteran Jamal Robertson ran for 1,031 yards last year but signed with B.C. in the off-season. That leaves Canadians Jeff Johnson (10 seasons), Bryan Crawford (five seasons) and Andre Durie (three seasons) as the club's most experienced running backs.

But none are close to Lumsden's career rushing totals. Johnson (186 carries, 771 yards) comes the closest with Crawford (20 carries, 96 yards) and Durie (eight carries, 42 yards) both far behind.

Argos GM Adam Rita said given Lumsden was just released his club hasn't started examining the merits of signing him. But he added Lumsden certainly has appeal.

"I think he's a person of interest for everyone," Argos GM Adam Rita said of Lumsden. "He's a very good back who has been very unlucky.

"He's had back to back to back injuries so there is a red flag there but I think everybody will investigate his situation."

Jimmy Chitwood

Hall of Famer
Aug 10, 2005
backrow said:
IF Jesse can stay healthy he would dominate CFL.

too true.

it's a terrible shame that such a good guy (as well as such a terrific talent) has had to endure so much bad luck when it comes to injuries. damn.

i wish him all the best, but the deck has certainly been stacked against him with his injury history (and, just as importnantly, that skin condition that forced him to play in the CFL to begin with).
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