EDMONTON - It was an emotional return for Jerome Messam.
There were plenty of handshakes and welcome-back hugs all around as the six-foot-four, 248-pound tailback returned to the Edmonton Eskimos on Thursday after being released Saturday by the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
Messam had 10 days following his release from Miami to sign with another team south of the border but opted to return early to the CFL club. And while his agent remains in talks with Edmonton about a contract extension, the league's top Canadian last season took to the practice field Thursday and declared he's ready to resume his pro career in Canada.
"I want to play Monday,” said Messam, referring to the Eskimos' next game in Calgary. “I feel like I'm ready, physically ready.
"My body feels great, my knee feels good. It was a gruelling off-season (in Miami), I went through training like I never did before so I feel I'm in the best shape of my life.
“But as far as getting back into the swing of things, being comfortable with the offence, my protection responsibilities and all that stuff, if not this week definitely be next week.”
Messam enjoyed a breakout 2011 campaign with Edmonton, rushing for 1,057 yards to be named the CFL's outstanding Canadian.
Messam's arrival creates a logjam at tailback for Edmonton, which already has Hugh Charles and newcomer Cory Boyd to go with versatile Canadian Calvin McCarty.
However, head coach Kavis Reed didn't sound like he was ready give Messam a roster spot for Edmonton's Labour Day showdown against arch-rival Calgary.
“Jerome is going to have to reintegrate himself into our system, work his way back in,” Reed said. “We have every intention of giving him the opportunity to work his way back into the fold, but right now we're going to focus on Hugh Charles and Cory Boyd as our guys.
“We've already built our gameplan and Jerome wasn't a part of that gameplan so we're going to see if he's able to work in. If he wows us at practice, if he's that guy who picks up where he left off prior to the knee injury last year, that's a consideration. But right now Hugh Charles and Cory Boyd are the guys.”
Reed wants to make sure Messam is game ready. He said although Messam was in the Miami camp he didn't get significant reps or enough work to get his cardio into game condition.
“The secondary part is he hasn't played football for almost a calendar year so there's a lot of things we need to look at," Reed said.
The 27-year-old Toronto native, who grew up in Brampton, Ont., suffered a torn meniscus cartilage in his knee in the West Division semifinal. He had surgery in Edmonton and an additional operation in Miami, where he got only limited playing time.
“When I got there I was coming off the injury,” Messam said after assuming his spot in Edmonton's dressing room. “I was practising so quick and going to hard I had to have another surgery while I was down there and didn't really get to do too much where they could evaluate me.”
Reed did say the team has the flexibility to add Messam to its roster if it saw fit. It's more likely he'll dress for the return game against Calgary next Friday in Edmonton.
However Messam fits into the equation, he would improve an Eskimos backfield that just three weeks ago featured Charles and McCarty. Edmonton added Boyd hours after his shocking release from Toronto on Aug. 12 despite being the CFL rushing leader at the time.
Charles and Boyd currently rank third and fourth in CFL rushing.
“This is a very good dilemma,” said Reed. “We went from not having anyone behind Hugh Charles to moving Calvin McCarty to fullback . . . to now having three very viable options.”
Messam, Charles, Boyd and Reed all agreed Messam's return creates a highly competitive situation, but a healthy one.
“And that's good,” said Reed. “As long as it's healthy competition, competitiveness is very good.
"Based on the character of these individuals and the fact I'm going to be very up front and forthright with them, let them all know this organization is relying on them to provide quality depth at that position and our offence is morphing more into a run offence so we want to make certain we're fair to everyone and they have to be pros about the way things are being handled.”
Charles, who leads the team with 504 rushing yards, said Messam's return doesn't change his own status or put added pressure on the players.
“It is going to put a lot of pressure on Kavis and (offensive co-ordinator) Marcus (Crandell) to see where everyone's going to fit,” he said. “What we have going now, it's a great combination but I feel like there's more pressure on the coaches then there is on the players.
"It''ll be interesting to see how that plays out.”
NOTES: Quarterback Stephen Jyles, who missed the last three quarters of Monday's win in Toronto, declared his knee is fine and he's ready to play . . . Reed is becoming concerned with the number and types of hits veteran receiver Fred Stamps has taken recently. "Fred is not a very big guy and those hits start to add up later in the season. At week seven, eight, nine when your body is taking those blows it becomes a little more difficult for you, so we're concerned about those.” However he said Stamps is healthy and ready to play . . . Linebacker JC Sherritt was named CFL defensive player of the month for August. Sherritt has a league-high 70 tackles and is tied for the lead in interceptions with three. He was named defensive player of the month for July and three times has been defensive player of the week.