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Argos RB Ebell out for season with Achilles tendon injury

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The Canadian Press
6/5/2008 5:34:15 PM
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MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Tyler Ebell's CFL career has been put on hold.

Toronto Argonauts head coach Rich Stubler told reporters Thursday that Ebell will require season-ending surgery after suffering a ruptured left Achilles tendon during practice Wednesday morning.

The operation is slated for Friday.

Ebell got a cleat caught in the artificial turf and needed to be carried off the field. He attended Thursday morning's workout, but was in a golf cart. He chose not to speak to reporters after the session.

Ironically, the Argos moved Wednesday morning's practice to an artificial turf facility amid fears that rain had made the grass field they usually work out on too slick.

''I was very encouraged with (Ebell) in camp and the shape he came in,'' Stubler said. ''It was very unfortunate.

''It was just catching his cleat a little bit and it just popped. There's not a lot we can do about it. That's one of those curves that they throw you and you whiff on. So we've got to start again.''

Although Ebell's future wasn't discussed, the harsh reality is his injury is career-threatening.

Later on Thursday, the Argos acquired running back Jamal Robertson from Saskatchewan for Canadian cornerback Leron Mitchell, a former Western Mustangs star who this off-season had a workout with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.

Greg Mohns, the Argos assistant general manager, said the deal was a direct result of Ebell's injury but that the five-foot-10, 218-pound Ohio Northern grad brings a different element to Toronto's offence.

''Jamal is a bigger back and maybe more of a power inside runner than the guys we have now,'' Mohns said. ''But he's got really good quickness into the hole and outstanding hands and is an outstanding kickoff return guy.

''He's also an experienced NFL player who knows how to play the game.''

Roughriders GM Eric Tillman felt the deal helped both teams.

''We're very pleased to get Leron,'' he said. ''He's a young, high character guy who has already proven to be a very good special teams player.

''In return, the Argos are getting a darn good running back in Jamal. He's a strong back with great leg drive and balance.  We're trading a potential 1,000-yard back, but, running back is an area where we have tremendous depth.''

Robertson joined the Riders as a free agent in November 2007. He spent time in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers after originally signing with Calgary as a free agent in 2001.

Robertson played for the Rhein Fire of NFL Europa in 2002. He set a league record for the longest run from scrimmage (a 90-yard TD against Frankfurt).

The Argos have also reportedly had some interest in Ciatrick Fason, a six-foot, 225-pound running back who played college football at Florida and was a 2005 draft pick of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, but Mohns said Fason has signed with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.

Robertson is scheduled to arrive in camp Friday, and will join Canadians Andre Durie and Jeff Johnson, along with special-teams star Dominique Dorsey in the competition to replace Ebell.

Toronto acquired Ebell and receiver T.J. Acree from Edmonton in the off-season for cornerback Jordan Younger. Ebell, who ran for 650 yards as a rookie with the Eskimos, was projected to be Toronto's starting tailback this season.

Durie and Dorsey have previous experience at tailback. Durie was a featured running back at York - running for 1,367 yards in 2004 before suffering a horrific left knee injury in 2005 that forced him to miss the '06 campaign - while Dorsey was a running back with Saskatchewan before being released and ultimately joining the Argos last year as a free agent.

Durie, though, has staged an inspirational comeback considering he was told at the time of his injury that he'd never walk normally again, let alone play football. Not only is Durie back on the field, but he's running without the aid of a brace on his left knee.

Johnson, coming off broken leg suffered last season, has mostly been used as a fullback during his five seasons with Toronto. But the five-foot-nine, 212-pound former York Lion has been effective whenever he's lined up at tailback.

However, Stubler said he's looking forward to seeing Durie and Dorsey strut their stuff in the backfield.

''Andre was very special in college and I'm looking forward to seeing him play,'' Stubler said. ''Dominique, a couple of years ago when they started him in Saskatchewan, was hell on wheels.

''Boy, he was hard to tackle.''

Dorsey has been used mostly as a kick and punt returner with Toronto, but said he's looking forward to being given the chance to see action in the backfield.

''I've been playing running back, that's primarily what I've been doing during my football career,'' he said. ''I feel that I can go in there and contribute  . . . and get the job done.''

While Dorsey might have the edge on Durie in terms of pro experience, the main concern with the former UNLV star is his size. Dorsey is listed at five foot seven and 173 pounds - Durie is five foot 11 and 195 pounds - prompting questions whether Dorsey can take the physical pounding a running back must endure.

But one advantage Dorsey says he has is his familiarity with offensive co-ordinator Steve Burrato's playbook.

''I came in six games into the season last year and it's pretty much the same as we've been doing last year,'' he said. ''So I did get a chance to study and get a head start on these guys.

''I've been just trying to go over it each night and get it down, basically.'' 

Tyler Ebell (Photo: Doug Benc/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Doug Benc/Getty Images)
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