Milton: With Collaros gone ‘We’ll see what this team’s made of’

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It won’t be as much as he’d like – anything close to it – but Zach Collaros will still be contributing to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats offence.

“I told Tommy (Condell, the offensive co-ordinator) as soon as the game was over, ‘I want to have a role, ‘” the Ticats quarterback said Tuesday in his first public appearance since his season was ended Saturday by an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his right knee during a 25-18 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos. “So whatever it is, I just want to be part of something.”

Collaros will remain in, “or around, ” Hamilton before and after he undergoes surgery some time in the first half of October.

He joked that he’d already drawn up some plays for the team, but Kent Austin says there’s a more substantial way in which he’ll be able to help The Three J’s who now populate the quarterback depth chart: next-game starter Jeff Mathews and backups Jacory Harris and Jeremiah Masoli.

“The thing that Zach has done well is that he’s paid attention to the shortcuts he’s been given with respect to his decision-making, ” Austin says of his injured quarterback, who was by far the leading contender to win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player. “It’s one of the things that we focus on a lot with the quarterbacks: give them the shortcuts to not have too much information in their heads, so you can play the game fast.

“Sometimes that collapses the learning curve for a young quarterback to draw on that experience. That’ll be probably be the No. 1 thing that Zach can bring to the other guys.”

Collaros was upbeat, most of the time, as he addressed his situation, which will include an estimated nine-month recovery period. Assuming his surgery is performed by mid-October, depending on a timetable established by his Georgetown surgeon, that wouldn’t get him onto the field until mid-July 2016.

But he says that estimate “is on the safe side.”

“I’ll do everything doctors and trainers tell me to do, ” Collaros said. “I don’t doubt I’ll be back for July. If I work hard enough, it’ll come true. I’m sure there will be ups and downs about it, that’s what everybody says.”

He says that his surgery and recovery period will be a challenge, but different than the nine-weeks of downtime he spent last season after suffering a concussion in the second game.

“It’s more extensive, it’s longer, but you’re able to attack the rehab, whereas with a concussion you can’t do anything.”

He says that he suspected the worst Saturday night, so by Tuesday he seemed more upbeat than anticipated as he talked about his impending rehab. But he also seemed close to welling up when he described how much he loved team sports, and this particular team.

“I feel good, I’m OK, ” he said. “I was bummed, I’m still kind of bummed, we were having a good season – and we’re still going to have a great season – everything felt like it was clicking.”

Collaros expressed faith in Mathews, who replaced him Saturday but was pulled, and will replace him as starter against Calgary a week from Friday. He said that the one piece of advice all the quarterbacks trade with each other is to play with confidence.

“He’s a confident kid, he’s a strong kid. I personally think he’s going to tear it up, ” Collaros said. “I think he’s going to do an unbelievable job. I think we have the best coaching staff in the league.”

It didn’t surprise Austin to hear that his quarterback had spoken strongly about returning to play more quickly than anticipated.

“He will attack his recovery in a way that we’ll probably have to dial him back a little to make sure he doesn’t overdo it, to make sure he stays on track, ” Austin said.

Austin conceded that Collaros’s absence “is a loss, but I know our guys will rally.

“Things happen and adversity is always going to hit when you don’t want it. We’ll see what this team’s made of, and I think we have a good locker-room.”