Chris Bauman’s right thigh is finally getting back to its normal size, which is a huge relief for the Calgary Stampeders slotback.
The 29-year-old Brandonite is coming off his most frustrating season in the Canadian Football League. He broke his wrist in training camp, which caused him to miss the majority of the season. He was set to return for Calgary’s 15th game of the season on Oct. 11, but tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in practice just a few days before the game.
Bauman had it surgically repaired in Canada before moving back to Florida with his wife, Katie Mitchell, for the off-season. He has been rehabilitating it ever since and is getting excited with his progress.
"Just being able to go out and jog now is a huge thing and I’m able to do squats and stuff like that for a while now," said Bauman, who’s also taking classes in real estate. "I think I lost close to 15 pounds just because I couldn’t do anything. My thigh was probably as big as my calf."
The 6-foot-4 former first overall CFL draft pick, who played his high school football with the Vincent Massey Vikings, believes he’s close to being on pace with his recovery, but he doesn’t expect to return to the field for quite some time. Bauman won’t be able to do lateral exercises until seven months after his surgery, which should coincide with the beginning of Stampeders’ training camp in June.
He hopes to begin his eighth season in the CFL, and third with the Stampeders, around Labour Day. However, after having to endure an entire season on the sidelines, Bauman wants to make sure he’s fully healed before he returns to the Stampeders’ lineup, especially because he’s heading into the final year of his contract and feels like he’s in the twilight of his football career.
"With the practices I had last year, I think (the Stamps) were happy with what I was doing," Bauman said. "That’s one thing I’m happy that I got a few practices in. They know injuries happen all the time. I think they’re willing to work with me and I don’t want to rush it because I don’t want to do it again this late in my career because that would probably be it. I want to do it right and make sure it’s physically ready to play."
The Stampeders have been perennial contenders in the CFL, making the playoffs every year since 2005, playing in two Grey Cup games and winning one in that span. Next season should be no different, although who will be quarterbacking the team is up in the air with Bo Levi Mitchell and Drew Tate expected to battle for the starting job in training camp.
Although he said last season was the hardest he has endured in his football career, Bauman admits having to be supportive from the sideline while the Stampeders went 14-4 and hosted the West Division final has made him a better person.
That mental toughness has him focused on lifting heavier weights to gain strength and maintain flexibility so he can help Calgary make a push for the playoffs and the Grey Cup in Vancouver in November, especially since it might be his final year in the sport.
"I’m really hoping to get a good nine games in, plus playoffs," he said. "From there I’ll have to make a decision because my contract is up. My wife just got a job down here as a pharmaceutical sales rep. It’s going to be a big decision for us for what we want to do."