Argos get Anthony Coombs back just in time for big game

If Argos slotback Anthony Coombs has a little extra spring in his step during practice this week — and he does — it’s for good reason.

Wednesday marks 10 weeks to the day that Coombs underwent surgery to repair a broken collarbone. Now, Coombs can put the ordeal of a major surgery, and a lengthy rehab, behind him, and focus in on his opportunity to play in the final game of the regular season.

It will mark Coombs’ first game in over two months, but what an opportunity: a win in Vancouver this weekend over the Lions and the Argos outright clinch first place in the CFL’s East Division.

And that win would bring a bye into the East final, and the right to host it, at BMO Field, on Nov. 19.

Timing is now everything for the 25-year-old Winnipeg native, who was having a solid start to the season prior to his injury.

He has a chance to recuperate that good start, which saw him give the Argos a dual threat as a rusher and pass receiver.

‘My role is getting open for the shorter passes,” said Coombs, who played in nine games prior to his injury, rushing for 33 yards on seven carries, and adding another 426 yards on 47 receptions.

“Making guys miss (tackling him), and doing a good job of blocking, things people don’t see. My thing is the short passing game, but I want to help this team win in any way I can.”

As a run and catch threat, Coombs gives the Argos another option to running back James Wilder Jr. who has emerged as the East’s top back in terms of rushing and receiving yardage.

Toronto obviously wants to “walk in the front door” to first place in the East, and that can only be accomplished, now, with a win over the Lions.

A loss and the Argos are still in the playoffs. However, they would host the semifinal — a cross-over game — against either Saskatchewan or Edmonton.

That’s a scenario the Argos aren’t afraid of. But it’s also a less friendly scenario, since the Argos won just two of nine games against West foes so far this season.

There’s a long list of reasons why, but the Argos essentially never put together a complete game on almost every occasion they played a team from the West.

Now, with Coombs and defensive end Shawn Lemon healed up during the bye week last week, Toronto has one of its healthiest lineups of the season.

“You can see how it would be tough,” Coombs said, referring to any game against the West, which has been the superior division in the CFL this season. “But Ottawa and Hamilton went out there and won, so there’s no reason we can’t do the same.”

Coombs’ long road back began and ended with strict adherence to a plan laid out by the team’s strength and conditioning staff. For Coombs, the fact he suffered a shoulder injury allowed him, in part, to keep working out his legs.

“It felt natural,” Coombs said about his practice runs this week.

“I think the thing for me was to keep up the mental reps. Every meeting I went to, I treated it like I was playing. That way, I only felt like I was out of it physically, not mentally.”

Coombs admits his conditioning will be tested in a game, since practice “is not like a game.”

But Coombs — and everyone in Argos camp — feels the significance of this road trip to face the Lions.

“Everyone is focused in, everyone is dialed in,” said Coombs, whose replacement was ably handled by Jimmy Ralph (now out with a lower body injury).

“This is the biggest game of the season for all of us.”

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