Ruffin it out through pain

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

After an inspirational comeback last season, there was no way J.R. Ruffin was going to take a knee and end his career.

But even with the odds stacked against him for a pain-free working existence, Ruffin is back at Stampeders training camp this spring.

The defensive back stepped into playoff action last November following more than a year away rehabbing an injured knee.

But just two games of action in an emergency situation required more surgery and the realization the problem is chronic without a more invasive procedure.

"The doctors said if I tried to get it completely fixed, there is no guarantee I could come back completely," Ruffin said. "Then that would be the end of football for the rest of my life.

"The other option was to play with it like it is."

Ruffin first broke in with the Stamps in 2006 and impressed with his speed as both a DB and kick returner. But his knee flared up early in 2007 and he was sidelined for the majority of the season.

The Idaho product didn't leave, however, and stayed around the team despite not having a job. The Stamps offered him a practice roster spot late last season and he was activated late for the playoffs when Lenny Walls injured his ankle. Ruffin did well considering he didn't have a strong knowledge of the defensive system. He led the Stamps with six tackles in the Grey Cup.

He's absorbing the defensive schemes during camp, but he has to grit his teeth through two-a-days.

Much was made of Brandon Browner and his gutsy effort playing on what was later found out to be a cracked ankle during the Grey Cup.

Ruffin faces a similar hurdle every time he suits up.

"You talk about Brandon and his ankle, but that was going to heal," the 26-year-old said. "This one isn't going to heal up. I have to go through the pain every day.

"In the first practice (of two-a-days), I hope it doesn't flare up because I need to sleep on it so I'm ready for the next practice.

"I just get out there trying to stay loose so it doesn't stiffen up on me. I try to give it my all. I don't tell anybody about it unless they ask. I just go practice and play.

"If I'm off a step and a half, it's my fault I'm off a step and a half. I finish every play, even if I get beat."

At no point did Ruffin consider hanging up the cleats after the Grey Cup win.

"You always want to continue to play," Ruffin said.

"I played those two games, but I want to see if I can do a whole season.

"I could get released and be sent home. There's nothing I can do about that. If I did come back, I wanted to give my all and know I tried my hardest."

When Ruffin entered his second CFL season, he provided the entertainment at the rookie show, even doing an impression of the head coach.But the aspiring standup comic has put that career on hold.

"I'm usually a fun, comedic guy but it's been serious now," Ruffin said. "I have a serious problem."


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