Robert Edwards to play football in Canada

ATHENS – Former University of Georgia and Washington County star Robert Edwards has signed to play with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League and plans to join the team later this week.

Robert Edwards was the No. 18 overall draft pick by the NFL's New England Patriots in 1998 and rushed for more than 1,000 yards in his rookie season but never regained that form after suffering a devastating knee dislocation in 1999. He missed two complete NFL seasons before returning to play a season and a half with the Miami Dolphins. He was released by the Dolphins in 2003 after carrying the ball just 20 times the year before.

Edwards hopes playing in the CFL will prove to NFL teams that his knee and ability will allow him to play at that level again, he said.

"My knee is fine," he said. "I haven't had any problems with it since I came back (to the Dolphins), but obviously, it's a question on everybody else's mind. If I go up there and show out, what kind of questions can they have?"

Edwards worked out for the Dolphins and NFL teams in Baltimore, New Orleans and Buffalo last year, he said. In Baltimore, Edwards felt like he outperformed the other auditioning running back, Jamel White, but the Ravens signed White.

"They chose him because he had been in a camp and had film and had been in contact that year," Edwards said.

Edwards' knee is structurally OK, said Ron Courson, Georgia's director of sports medicine.

"He's really doing very well," said Courson, who was closely involved with Edwards' rehabilitation and has examined Edwards' knee in the last month. "It's very unusual for somebody to have the extent of knee injury he had and come back and play in any degree of athletics. It's an unbelievable story. He's done very well. The knee is stable."

Edwards will fly to Montreal on Friday to join the Alouettes, who were 14-4 last year, he said. Canadian football is played on a field that is slightly longer and wider than an NFL field and has rules that encourage more wide-open offenses than in the NFL. The only knowledge Edwards has of the CFL is what he has seen on television, he said.

"I know there is more pass versus run but that plays right into my ability because I like to catch the ball out of the backfield," he said. "I'll go up there and lead the league in touchdowns, rushing, whatever, just to prove I'm OK."

He was signed by the Alouettes on March 7 and is one of six running backs on the team's roster. The team will keep either four or five backs on its active roster and only two of them will be Americans, general manager Jim Popp said. (Canadian teams are only allowed to keep 18 "imports" on their rosters.)

"He obviously know what he's doing, and he looks good," said Pop, who said he thinks Edwards' knee will hold up but added that having an entire season of contact is "the only way we'll ever really know."

Former Georgia Southern quarterback J.R. Revere, former Arkansas running back Fred Talley, former Auburn kicker Damon Duval and former Georgia Tech wide receiver Kerry Watkins also are on the Alouettes' roster.

Edwards gained 1,661 yards and scored 14 touchdowns and recorded 145 tackles, eight sacks and six interceptions for Washington County in 1992. He also blocked nine kicks and led Coach Rick Tomberlin's team to a 14-1 record and the Class AA state championship game.

He signed with Georgia in 1993 and played in six games as a cornerback as a true freshman. He stayed at cornerback and intercepted four passes in 1994 before being moved to running back in the spring of 1995. He led the nation in rushing that year until he suffered a broken foot against Tennessee that kept him out the rest of the year. He returned to lead the Bulldogs in rushing in 1996 and 1997.

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