HAMILTON - It’s like he never left at all.
Avon Cobourne is a Hamilton Ticat again, about 17 weeks after Hamilton signed Martell Mallett and Cobourne asked for and received his release.
Cobourne admits that sequence of events might not have been received so well in his earlier playing days. Nobody wants to be told by his employer they would prefer someone else. But the wisdom of years allowed Cobourne to accept the Ticats decision without so much as a tweet of protest.
Cobourne had already moved to Orlando where he was just getting his feet wet in the insurance business when Mallett went down with a torn Achilles.
The call went out to Cobourne. He didn’t need to think long about his answer.
“It wasn’t too difficult,” the 33-year-old back said. “It was, ‘Come do something you love’ or ‘Do something you like.’ It really wasn’t a tough decision. My wife was like, ‘You know you want to play.’
“I just said, ‘You’re right baby.’ ”
Martell had proven himself in this league in 2009 rushing for over 1,200 yards and winning rookie of the year honours with the B.C. Lions.
Two seasons in the NFL, bouncing from one team’s practise roster to another left Martell looking to put down some roots and re-establish his credentials as a guy who can produce. Hamilton was supposed to be the beneficiary until he tore his Achilles.
“It’s unfortunate that someone got injured but at the same time one person’s mishap is another person’s blessing,” Cobourne said.
Cobourne had reportedly signed for two years at $150,000 assuming he hits all his incentives.
And while he’s familiar with the majority of the roster, Cobourne isn’t feeling overly comfortable just yet.
The team ran what turned out to be an abbreviated mock game Saturday afternoon at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Head coach George Cortez had hoped to get in 60 plays in the pseudo scrimmage but with some injuries to his secondary and a few receivers sitting out with various tweaks, he only got in about 30 plays before calling it a day.
Cobourne was an observer for all of it and for good reason.
“I just have to learn the offence,” he said. “It’s a whole new system. I have to learn everything and I’ve already missed a week.”
Cobourne comes in admittedly smaller than he was last season when he carried 205 pounds on his 5-foot-8 frame, but still in decent shape. While he had taken some major steps into his after-athletic career, he hadn’t totally given up on the idea of a return.
“I was prepared (that my football days were over) but I still had the gym membership,” he said. “I was still working out. Not fully giving it up. In my mind I had to move on, but at the same time I knew I was going to be the first call (if something happened to one of the backs) so I definitely kept the membership and did a little work on the treadmill.”
As for any simmering hard feelings about his sudden departure, Cobourne said we all would have heard about it back when it happened if that were the case.
“I’m sure you all know me,” he said. “If there were (some hard feelings) I probably would have said something, right? It was a business decision and I understood that. I’m not a young guy. I understand the game. It was a business decision all the way around.
When it was suggested that Cobourne likely helped himself by not burning any bridges, he waved that off too.
“There wasn’t nothing to say,” he said. “Maybe if I was 25 and didn’t understand the game, I probably would have said something. It’s business, it’s not personal. But most people take it personally. When it comes back, just like it did, it’s a business too. I mean I’m not coming back for free.”
Cobourne may not have been Plan A for the Tabbies, but you just know he’ll make them very happy they had such an accomplished Plan B waiting in the wings.