For Cory Boyd, the lowest point in a season from Hell, came when he was sitting idle at home, watching games involving both CFL teams that had released him this season.
“It hurt a lot, knowing that I started the season out so ell and everything, and was on a high,” Boyd said Tuesday, following Eskimos practice at Commonwealth Stadium. “To be brout back down to that level of not even playing and being humbled, it hurt me inside because I didn’t know what I did wrong to be at home, when I know I gave everything I had.”
By that point in his aimless, neither-here-nor-there season, Boyd was back in Toronto, where he rumbled out of the gate, leading the league in rushing through the first third of the season.
For reasons only cursorily explained, the Argos released Boyd on Aug. 12, opting to make Chad Kackert their feature back, instead of Boyd, who twice had rushed for more than 1,000 yards for Toronto.
The Eskimos immediately claimed Boyd and added them to their roster, even though they already had Hugh Charles as their feature back, and Jerome Messam, the league’s top Canadian last season on the strength of a 1,000-yard rushing season, was expected to return from an NFL tryout.
Sure enough, about a week after Boyd came to Edmonton, here came Messam back from the NFL. So the Eskimos suddenly were overloaded at running back. One reason teams sometimes claim players, it must be noted, is out of self-defence, so that no other team can claim him.
In Edmonton’s case, this was GM Eric Tillman adding depth, hedging his bets in case Charles, a gifted but undersized back, got injured, and just improving his team.
“I knew coming into this situation that I was going to share the backfield,” Boyd said. “I had no problem with it, even with Jerome coming in.
“I had all faith in my coaches to put all three of us in there, if it was possible.”
That turned out to be possible, but impractical, so the Eskimos swiftly abandoned the three running back lineup, and Boyd mostly sat out. Boyd accepted that, too.
“If I had to sit, it was OK because I’m a true believer in God’s words: ‘Let the first be last and let the last be first.’
“I was the last and now I’m the first. However this turns out, it was just a humbling ending and humbling situation throughout the whole year.
“I look forward to finishing this year off and seeing what the future holds.”
It’s unclear what the immediate future holds for Boyd, since Charles, the club’s starting tailback most of the season, looked fit and frisky at practice on Wednesday, and declared himself ready to go and medically cleared.
Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed acknowledged Charles was medically cleared to play on Sunday in the East Semifinal on Sunday, but said he had not yet decided whether Boyd or Charles will play. It’s assumed that Messam, a Canadian, will play, because it is an easier fit with the import-non-import ratio. But that remains to be seen.
This after Boyd had his best outing of this in-and-out season, rushing for 66 yards on eight carries and one touchdown against the Calgary Stampeders last Friday night.
Boyd was happy after that performance, happy to be back in Edmonton after being released on Oct. 11, a salary cap move at the time. That roster move came after the CFL trade deadline, which meant Boyd could play for no other CFL team this season, including the playoffs.
“That was the saltiest part of the whole situation,” Boyd said. “I at least thought that I was going to have an opportunity to play for another (CFL) team if I got released.” But league regulations said, ‘No.’
“That hurt a lot moe than it did when I was (released by) Toronto, only because there was a lot going on and I was just getting my feet in the door (in Edmonton),” Boyd said. “I felt that I was just getting comfortable with my teammates and the coaching staff, the city of Edmonton, period.
“As soon as I got comfortable, things slipped out from underneath me, like a carpet.”
He says he had offers in the NFL, but believes the CFL is more “tailored to my style of play.” As well, he has experienced the NFL grind, seen the politics of the game down south.
“It just didn’t sit well with my spirit.”
When Charles suffered a knee injury in a loss to the B.C. Lions, the Eskimos called Boyd in Toronto, where he maintains a residence, and he didn’t hesitate.
After his strong performance against the Stampeders, Boyd already looking forward to getting after those Argonauts on Sunday, a chance at a little get back at the team that first gave his merry-go-round season a diabolical twirl.
“It would be good (playing against them), because it’s a team that I played for,” Boyd said. “I try not to put too much emphasis on it, even though I want to go out there and I wnt to pound it and let them know that they made a big mistake.
“That’s not the biggest thing for me, though. I want to go into these playoffs, taking it one quarter at a time, one game at a time. As (Sunday’s) game goes you’ll see which team made the right decision and which didn’t.”
If only it were so simple for Boyd.
Before anyone can make that judgment on Sunday, Boyd’s presence will depend on Reed’s decision on whether he plays against the Argonauts at all.
“It’s up in the air, but I think that’s a good thing for the team, not knowing who is going to play,” Boyd said. “You get the best out of your players on the practice field because everybody’s trying to show the coaches who deserves to be out there.
“It’s ultimately always a coach’s decision on that.”
Between coaches and GMs, Boyd has done a painful amount of sitting this season for a back who gained 1,359 yards rushing in 2010 and 1,141 in 2011.
For those who have ever wondered why people say football is a great game but a hard business, look no further than the curious case of Cory Boyd.