It wasn’t much, just a short pass across the middle, but the smattering of fans at Ticats’ practice on Monday let loose anyway: “Tuuuuuuuuuz!!!”
It’s a been a while since the familiar refrain that usually accompanies an Andy Fantuz reception has been heard around these parts but the veteran Canadian receiver is finally back practicing with the club after missing nine games with a dislocated elbow.
“It feels pretty good. I’ve almost got full range back and I’m just working on the strength and endurance,” Fantuz said. “The coaches are easing me in and we’ll see how I progress. Hopefully I’ll be back sooner rather than later.”
Fantuz led the team in both catches and receiving yards when he was injured in an Aug. 3 contest against the Toronto Argonauts. It seemed like an innocent play – Fantuz slipped on the turf – but wrenched his right arm when he went to brace himself.
“I’ve probably run that route more than any other in my career and it was just so strange – I’ve done it a thousand times,” Fantuz said. “I guess I cut a little harder, twisted my ankle and fell without being prepared for it. It was just one of those weird things.”
Even more unusual: running back C.J. Gable dislocated his left elbow in the same game. Like Fantuz, Gable was taken off the six-game injured list on Monday and practiced with the club. Whether either player suits up next Sunday against Montreal, however, remains to be seen.
“We’ll work them in with some reps and see how they respond,” head coach Kent Austin said. “I don’t know if that reaches the ‘probable’ category yet.”
In addition to Fantuz and Gable, there are a couple of other Ticats on the mend. Starting guard Ryan Bomben practiced with the first team offence on Monday and defensive back Rico Murray looks to be 100 per cent after suffering a hamstring injury on in the Labour Day win over Toronto.
It isn’t all good news, however. A number of players sat out Monday’s session, including centre Mike Filer, offensive tackle Joel Figueroa, safety Craig Butler as well as receivers Bakari Grant and Terrence Tolliver. Austin said most were taking maintenance days and could play this week.
Austin said the return of Fantuz and Gable – whenever it happens – has a big upside.
“They are players that have played at a really high level for us and they know what we’re doing,” They’re valued members of our football team so it will be good to have them back.”
Even if Fantuz isn’t ready to face the Alouettes, he should be able to make contribution as the Ticats look to lock up first place in the East Division.
“It’s crucial to get back during the stretch run. As much as injuries suck, the silver lining is that grows the depth of the team and you have more confidence of the guys behind you,”Fantuz said. “When I get back, hopefully I’ll bring a little more confidence, communication and leadership to the offence and whatever production I can add will be a bonus.”
Notes: The Toronto Argonauts defeated the Montreal Alouettes 25-17 on Monday, meaning the Ticats are tied for first place in the East Division with identical 9-5 records. Hamilton does hold the tie-breaker over the Argos, however, courtesy of their season sweep of the Double Blue… the Ticats held a Thanksgiving dinner for coaches, players and their families on the club level at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday afternoon. For some of the American players, it was their first taste of the Canadian version of the holiday, which takes place in November. “”I don’t even know it was a holiday until they announced it to the team. It’s new to me but it’s pretty cool,” said rookie receiver Tiquan Underwood. “It has the same feel as ours, it’s just a little earlier. Two in one year – I’ll take it.”