HE started all 18 games last season as the Blue Bombers’ middle linebacker, but through five weeks of the 2016 campaign, Sam Hurl has hardly played.

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HE started all 18 games last season as the Blue Bombers’ middle linebacker, but through five weeks of the 2016 campaign, Sam Hurl has hardly played.

Hurl, 26, reaggravated a groin injury he suffered in training camp in Winnipeg’s Week 2 loss to the Calgary Stampeders and has missed the last three games. He returned to practice Sunday and has been cleared to play Thursday when the Bombers take on the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Linebacker Sam Hurl (right) is anxious to get back into action after being injured earlier this season.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Linebacker Sam Hurl (right) is anxious to get back into action after being injured earlier this season.

"It’s definitely frustrating," said Hurl after practice Monday, recalling the 2013 season when he missed 11 weeks while with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. "You sit down and every play you’re watching you’re wishing you could be out there."

With the Bombers at 1-4, it’s been especially difficult to watch from the sidelines, but Hurl said it’s also made him hungrier to contribute when he returns. Hurl has just one special-teams tackle this season.

In 2015, he finished the year with 52 defensive tackles, six tackles on special teams, five quarterback sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble.

Used mostly as a backup in an improved linebacker group this year, Hurl will be looked on to bring an immediate boost to the special-teams unit. It’s an area, he said, as important as both defence and offence.

"We’ve got to have better field position, we have to move the ball better in our returns and we have to stymie them when it comes to them making returns," said Hurl. "If we can dominate special teams we only need to win one of the other two to have a successful game."

With the number of bodies already expected to be out of the lineup Thursday, including several key players on defence — defensive backs Chris Randle, Macho Harris and Julian Posey, among others — having a healthy Hurl back is a positive.

For head coach Mike O’Shea, Hurl’s return is also a boost to the leadership core, both in the room and on the field.

"Sam is a very smart, experienced football player," said O’Shea. "Right away today in practice you notice on the defensive side he’s letting guys know where they’re supposed to be and if someone wasn’t, he’s letting them know."

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

twitter: @jeffkhamilton

 

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
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After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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