Edmonton Eskimos general manager Ed Hervey knew exactly what happened to John White even before the star running back stopped suddenly and grabbed his ankle.
“I was standing pretty much 10 yards away from him,” Hervey said Monday. “You could hear it. When your Achilles goes you can hear it. If you’ve heard it once you’ll never forget that sound.”
The 24-year-old White, who ran for 852 yards in nine games last season, suffered a ruptured left Achilles tendon during drills at Sunday’s practice that will require surgery and is likely lost to the team for the season.
His immediate replacement in camp is rookie Shakir Bell who physically is almost a duplicate of White at five-foot-eight and 185 pounds.
Both backs are strong, quick and hard to tackle.
“(Bell) probably runs with a little more power, he hits (hole) a little quicker as far as when there’s a little bit of space he’ll get it more north and south,” head coach Chris Jones said.
Bell, the only international running back added to the roster for this year’s camp, won’t be alone for long, however. Hervey said he had already contacted other backs on the team’s “ready list” and expects one or two to arrive in the next couple of days.
“The competition continues,” Hervey said. “We were not set at that position to where we had anointed anyone just yet. You never want to lose a player, but it is part of the business. Bell is a young player with a great opportunity in front of him but we’re not going to leave that pressure solely on his shoulders.”
White was expected to be the team’s starting back after averaging 6.9 yards a carry last season.
The 2014 campaign was another tough one for White, who missed two weeks with a minor injury coming out of training camp, six weeks in mid-season with a broken thumb and the final game of the year when the team elected to rest him.
“We went through this last year so it’s not uncommon territory for us,” Jones said of not having an undisputed No. 1 running back. “We have a good back in Shakir and I’m sure we’ll bring in more. It’s next guy up.”
Bell averaged 6.3 yards a carry last year at Indiana State and was a finalist for the Walter Payton award given annually to the most outstanding offensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
Bell welcomed the new challenge placed in front of him on Monday.
“I woke up this morning knowing my opportunity is here and I’m ready for it,” he said after a relatively easy practice Monday. “My job has gotten a little tougher, a little more demanding now”