Linebacker Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga is measured before going through a workout watched by professional football scouts at the University of Maine's Latti Fitness Center and Mahaney Dome on March 23, 2017. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The Canadian Football League, a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 season, is returning on Thursday with three players and a coach with University of Maine football ties eager to start.

Two of the players — defensive back Sherrod Baltimore and linebacker Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga — are on the same defense with the Ottawa Redblacks. Baltimore was the team’s 2017 nominee for rookie for the year in the league while Mulumba-Tshimanga is currently on the team’s suspended list and hoping to be reinstated soon.

“Sherrod is doing well. I expect him to start,” said Mulmba-Tshimanga, who had 53 defensive tackles, 34 special teams tackles, five sacks and four forced fumbles in three seasons with the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos, now the Edmonton Elks after changing their team in June.

Former UMaine wide receiver and kick return specialist Earnest Edwards is a rookie on Edmonton’s practice squad and long-time Black Bear offensive coordinator Kevin Bourgoin will take on a new role as receivers coach for the defending Grey Cup-champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

He had been Winnipeg’s running backs coach and the Blue Bombers rushed for a league-best 147.9 yards per game en route to their Grey Cup title in 2019. Their 2.663 total rushing yards were the most for the Blue Bombers in 54 years.

The 28-year-old Mulumba-Tshimanga, a Montreal native and three-time All-Colonial Athletic Association first team selection, had an injury-marred 2019 campaign in Edmonton as a lung contusion and shoulder and hamstring injuries limited him to nine games.

He said he is “healthy and ready to go” but was placed on the suspended list because he couldn’t make it to training camp. “I had to take care of stuff,” he said without elaborating. He said he spent 2020 “coaching and mentoring.”

“I am excited to play ball. It’s been almost two years now,” he added.

The 28-year-old Baltimore, from Fort Washington, Maryland, has registered 91 defensive tackles and two special teams tackles in his three seasons with the Redblacks.

In 42 games for the Black Bears, he had 79 tackles, 10 pass breakups and three interceptions. He also returned a punt for a touchdown against Delaware.

Baltimore spent his year away from football getting acquainted with his new puppy, promoting Skuish cookies and clothing line BB Collection, and working as a delivery man for AmTech Electrica, according to the Ottawa Sun.

The 23-year-old Edwards was an All-American kick returner at UMaine as well as a three-time All-CAA kick returner and wide receiver. The Rochester, New York native led the Football Championship Subdivision in kickoff return average in 2019 (28.5 yards per kickoff) and concluded his career as the school’s all-time leader in kick return yards, total kick returns and kick return touchdowns with six. He twice returned two kickoffs in a game for touchdowns and is the school record-holder in receiving yards at 2,641.

Winnipeg opened the season Thursday night when it hosted the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a rematch of the 2019 Grey Cup final won by Winnipeg 33-12. Ottawa begins its season at Edmonton on Saturday night.