Receiver S.J. Green is confident he will not miss a step when he returns to the Montreal Alouettes after missing nearly all of last season with a knee injury.
The four-time 1,000-yard receiver is on the mend from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the second game of the 2016 season.
“I’m confident in my ability always,” Green said Tuesday on a visit for a medical checkup and to meet with the team’s new general manger and coaching staff. “I’m confident in my preparation and my off-season work, which will allow me to play freely.
“I’ve been cleared to participate (in training camp) so my knee is fine. What I hear from people who have gone through this injury is about the mental part. When you play, when you’re ready to stick and plant, are you babying it? Are you not fully allowing the impact to take place. That’s going to be my biggest challenge.
“But I already feel I’m ready to do that. And with three months left to develop my knee I’m confident I can be the same or even better than before.”
At the top of his game, Green is among the Canadian Football League’s best. Heading into his 11th season, all with the Alouettes, the six-foot-three receiver has caught 444 passes for 6,626 yards in 116 games for an average of 14.9 yards per reception. He has been at his best in the playoffs, helping Montreal win consecutive Grey Cups in 2009 and 2010.
Much has happened on the Alouettes since he went down on an innocent-looking play last July.
Jim Popp is gone as coach and general manager, with Jacques Chapdelaine taking over as coach last September and former special teams co-ordinator Kavis Reed now the GM. Former Saskatchewan star Darian Durant is the new quarterback, among the several personnel changes on offence and defence.
Green is looking forward to working with Durant and feels the Alouettes have a solid receiving group with himself, veteran Nik Lewis and newly acquired Ernest Jackson.
“Darian’s a guy I’ve always wanted to play with,” he said. “We competed against each other in back-to-back Grey Cups and if we didn’t have (Anthony) Calvillo on our team, Darian would have been my next pick.
“We’ve had discussions in the past about teaming up together and trying to take a run at a championship. I’m ecstatic to have him.”
Green hopes to help make the Alouettes a winning team again after missing the playoffs two years in a row. When he first signed with Montreal in 2007, he joined a team that was used to contending for championships every year.
That dominance has evaporated in recent season, and there has been a revolving door of coaches and quarterbacks.
“For the last five years, we’ve had new head coaches, new offensive co-ordinators, new quarterbacks,” he said. “We’ve had a carousel at all three positions and it’s hard to develop continuity and chemistry when you’re together six months and you come back six months later and you have a totally different system to learn.”
It was particularly messy last season, when since-departed quarterback Rakeem Cato got into a shouting match with receivers Duran Carter and Kenny Stafford during practice. Things only settled down when the receivers were released and Jacques Chapdelaine took over from Popp as coach.
“I can say I was surprised, but then again, those were things that had been happening and needed to be addressed,” said Green. “Moving forward, I’m sure that Jacques will have a stranglehold on those things and not allow them to fester.
“I feel that as veterans, we can police that with the support of our coaches. That’s the key.”
That said, Green was delighted that Popp and former Alouettes coach Marc Trestman were hired by the Toronto Argonauts, even if he will now have to play against two men he considers friends.
“I’m happy for them and I feel it will also help my buddy B-Whit (running back Brandon Whitaker) get his job back, too,” he said.
Green can’t wait to get back to his job as well.
He called the injury a blessing in that it gave him time to spend with his wife and children in Tampa, Fla., who he doesn’t see much during the season, but he’s also anxious to get back to work.
“My goal is what it is every year _ to dominate,” he said. “If we run 60 reps, I want to run 60 reps.
“What I want is to be back on the field, play fast and at a high level and grade out 100 per cent on the grade sheet every week.”