UPDATED: 2008-07-14 01:53:23 MST
Gargiulo makes surprise return from ankle injury
By RANDY SPORTAK
Sweat was pouring down Anthony Gargiulo's face.
He was huffing and puffing in the afternoon sun yesterday and aware he'll be sore this morning when he awakes.
But the Calgary Stampeders defensive lineman was happy.
Happy to be back on the McMahon Stadium turf.
Happy to be back with his Stampeders teammates.
Happy to be back on track with his CFL career.
"It does feel good. A little strange trying to get my feet back under me, but not bad," Gargiulo said. " I always wanted to come back -- it was in my game plan -- so here I am."
Gargiulo officially came out of retirement yesterday and took another huge step forward in his return from a horrific ankle injury suffered last season.
He had hoped to be healthy enough by training camp but wasn't recovered in time.
Still, his arrival yesterday shocked teammates.
Defensive lineman Randy Chevrier was among the first to find out after running into Stamps player personnel director Jim Barker at the airport Saturday night. Chevrier was there to greet his wife. Barker was on-hand to pick up Gargiulo, whose return was unbeknownst to the players.
"I was happy to find that out. I didn't know," Chevrier said. "It's a testament to him training hard and coming back, having an iron will and not backing down.
"If he's healthy and ready to play, he's an asset to our team."
Gargiulo, a product of Hakensack, N.J., and graduate of Dartmouth College, played 10 games last season, but his career appeared to come to a crashing halt only a few weeks before his 23rd birthday.
In the final play before halftime of the regular-season finale, B.C. Lions offensive lineman Jason Jimenez fell into Gargiulo's legs -- a story in itself since Jimenez was first suspended for a game but was allowed to play in the Leos playoff game and then had the banishment rescinded -- and the resulting injuries were nearly catastrophic.
Gargiulo's broken ankle required a pair of surgeries, and he suffered both ligament and tendon damage.
He didn't appear to be suffering on the field yesterday.
"I wasn't pushing it too, too hard, but I was able to make it through all the scout reps. (Yesterday) was about testing it out and seeing where it was at," he reported. "I think I'm pretty far along. Hopefully, I'll continue to progress."
Much of that will depend on how sore he is today.
"My concern is my recovery. It's been getting better and better, but there's a difference between running around and playing football."
Gargiulo played 10 games last season and recorded 21 tackles, five sacks and one fumble recovery.
Whether the 6-ft.-3, 205-lb. defensive lineman can get back to where he was remains to be seen, but it's quite a journey just to return to a practice field.
"I was aiming for camp, --that was always my goal. But when it got there, I wasn't ready," said Gargiulo, who was signed to the team's practice roster.
Ben Sankey was released to make room on the practice roster