The Ticats could be getting a major boost to their receiving corps just in time for the most important game of the season.
Canadian receiver Andy Fantuz practiced with the first team offence on Tuesday, which means it’s possible he’ll play Saturday in the key matchup against Toronto. The Ticats trail Toronto by six points and the winner will also win the season series – the key playoff tie-breaker.
“Right now it’s feeling good and I’m looking forward to playing,” Fantuz said afterwards. “The plan is to play as soon as I feel like I’m ready to play without any hesitation. I’m getting close and we’ll see how the next few days go.”
The 33-year-old hasn’t played since Oct. 28, when he tore his ACL during a loss to Edmonton. He was having a spectacular season up until that point, with 101 receptions through 17 games and had reached the 1,000-yard mark (1,059) for just the second time in his 11-year career.
Fantuz has been serving as a player development coach during his rehab but head coach June Jones says his on-field skill is apparent.
“You can see the body control catching the ball,” Jones said. “Even though he’s not as fast as some of our guys, he gets into a position where if you just throw a catchable ball, he’s going to catch it. He’s a big body who is hard to defend.”
Injuries have ravaged the Ticats Canadian talent, particularly at the receiver position, so Fantuz’s return could give the offence a substantial boost.
“The last step is ramping up the volume and seeing how it reacts. I went a handful of plays when I came back last week, a couple of dozen plays by the end of last week,” Fantuz said. “Once I get up to the amount you’d see in a game, I can be confident that I can go in there without hurting the team and put myself at risk.”
• receiver Ricky Collins, acquired in a trade with Saskatchewan on Aug. 18, has been released. The Ticats sent defensive end Mike McAdoo and 2018 sixth round pick to the Riders in exchange for Collins and a seventh-round pick. McAdoo was released almost a month ago.
Collins did not appear in a game with the Ticats and while his release is somewhat surprising, the team is starting two Canadians in the receiving corps at the moment and is happy with the performance of American trio Luke Tasker, Jalen Saunders and Brandon Banks. With Demarr Aultman returning kicks as a backup and Junior Collins providing veteran insurance, the Ticats had less of a need for Collins.
• running backs C.J.Gable and Alex Green appear to be splitting reps in practice. Gable has been the starter for most of the season but missed last week due to injury while Green put up 140 yards on 13 carries in the win against the Lions. It’s unlikely that both will play against Toronto, however, given the Ticats’ ratio configuration.
Jones said they’ll make a decision later in the week.
“As coaches, we’re going to have to do what we think is the best for the football team. I love both kids,” he said. “I’ve always been a believer that a guy can’t lose his job due to injury, then I remember Lou Gehrig… we’re in a situation right here where we have to win so it’s my job to make a decision that I think gives us the best chance to win the game.”
• defensive back Abdul Kanneh took some reps with the first team offence on Monday which means he is also a possibility to play on Saturday. Kanneh, one of the team’s big free agent signings in the off-season, has played just two quarters so far in 2017 due to injury.
• Canadian defensive tackle Mike Atkinson is also back at practice, meaning he could provide another potential national starter.
• which is good timing because it looks like Canadian safety Courtney Stephen is dealing with a lower body injury and didn’t finish practice. Jay Langa took some reps at safety.
• the Ticats have re-signed linebacker D.J. May.