Avon Cobourne goes from CFL to salesman and back again

Tiger-Cats running back Avon Cobourne rushes against the Argonauts at the Rogers Centre in Toronto,...

Tiger-Cats running back Avon Cobourne rushes against the Argonauts at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., Sept. 8, 2012. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:48 AM ET

HAMILTON - Avon Cobourne was selling insurance in Orlando when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats came calling in June.

Now, the proud running back wants to be more than just insurance for a Ticats team that takes a five-game losing streak into a home date Saturday with the Edmonton Eskimos.

Cobourne expects to make only his third appearance of the 2012 Canadian Football League season as Chevon Walker continues to recover from what is thought to be a hip problem.

“I think I should be on the field regardless, not only just for my play, but for the leadership I bring as well,” Cobourne said on Wednesday following practice at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

“The hardest part is going off (the roster) and coming back on, with the possibility of going back off. I think that has to change.”

Cobourne, 33, had four consecutive seasons of at least 950 yards rushing (three with the Montreal Alouettes and last season with the Ticats) before asking for his release last winter when the Hamilton signed Martell Mallet. When Mallet got hurt, Cobourne agreed to re-sign, only to be beaten out of regular work by Walker.

Cobourne was one of the Hamilton players who performed admirably during a 45-31 loss against the Argonauts last Saturday, carrying the football 13 times for 119 yards.

Whether Cobourne gets more touches against an Eskimos defence that allows an average of 109.1 yards a game on the ground won’t be known until the weekend, but Tiger-Cats head coach George Cortez has to be entertaining the idea.

Cobourne is averaging eight yards a rush in two games.

“When you are making those kinds of yards,” Cortez said, “you would like to be in a situation where you can hand it off more.”

As a whole, the Ticats are trying to keep a positive front in the face of their skid, which has put them into must-win territory barely halfway through the 18-game schedule.

Quarterback Henry Burris will be back under centre after Cortez acknowledged following the most recent loss that everything was up for review. Centre Marwan Hage is doubtful at best, and linebacker Markeith Knowlton remains on the injured list. Kevin Eiben, a valuable member of the special teams, also is hurt.

“This is the playoffs for us,” defensive end Greg Peach said. “This is how you look at it now — we have to win.

“I was on an Edmonton team (in 2010) that was 2-9, and we kept grinding and kept going, and ended 7-11 and one game out of the playoffs. And this team is better than that team.

“We’re not 3-5 anymore and say, ‘We can get out of this.’ We’re 3-7 and we have to win. Everyone knows that.”

Consider that the Eskimos would increase their chances of earning a crossover playoff spot if they win, so a victory becomes that much more crucial for the Ticats.

Peach, an Eskimo for three seasons prior to signing as a free agent with Hamilton in February, will clash with his former teammates for the first time.

“I could say it’s just another game, but I have never done this before, played against the team I played with,” Peach said. “I have a lot of friends on that team and I’m very excited to play them.”

No one on the Ticats staff has to tell Cobourne what is expected of him.

“I’ll just do what I normally do — make plays,” Cobourne said. “I was brought here to make plays and I’m just doing what I am supposed to do.

“You have to go out there and play every play like it is your last. I do it all the time. Make it important. I’m just trying to get that instilled in the young guys. They think they can play forever and it’s not really like that.”

LOTS TO WORRY ABOUT

George Cortez has to do all he can to come up with a plan to stop the Edmonton Eskimos’ talented tailbacks, but won’t give quarterback Kerry Joseph a free pass either.

“Kerry does a great job of making plays when there is not necessarily a play to be made, and is a really strong runner,” Cortez said. “Has been and still is. He has good arm strength and has done a nice job for them.”

While Cory Boyd is expected to be held off the 42-man roster by the Esks for the game at Ivor Wynne Stadium on Saturday, Cortez still will have to worry about Jerome Messam and Hugh Charles. There will be one change among the Ticats’ front four, as Torrey Davis, acquired from Calgary, likely will start at tackle. End Brandon Peguese, who came over this week in a trade with the B.C. Lions, might see some action as well.

Riding a five-game losing streak, the Ticats have to get something going somewhere.

“We think Torrey will definitely give us an opportunity to be better inside,” Cortez said. “When we looked at him on tape this year at times, he was pretty unblockable and we hope that he brings that to us. When you have a guy who is making a big pile in the middle, it makes it better for everybody.”


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