John Avery thinks he can join the CFL's exclusive 2,000-yard club.
The Argos running back, who battled problems with his left knee throughout the 2004 season after off-season surgery, believes he has a good shot to become only the second player in CFL history to top 2,000 yards in a season.
"It's very realistic, but on the other hand I've got to get the ball," Avery said last night. "I'm confident in what I bring to the table ... I'd very much love to be in that elite group of 2,000-yard rushers. I don't think it's very hard."
The lone 2,000-yard season came in 1998 when Mike Pringle totalled 2,065 with the Montreal Alouettes.
After an intense off-season of training in North Carolina and Oakville, the 5-foot-10 Avery has gained about 17 pounds to reach a sturdy 200. He feels that's a near-ideal weight.
"I've been working so hard and that has allowed me to build some muscle," Avery, 28, said.
Avery, who led the CFL with 1,448 rushing yards in 2002 with the Edmonton Eskimos, agreed to take a pay cut of about 50% in a re-structured two-year deal with an option in February after he finished seventh in the league with 974 yards last season. The outgoing Avery remains the highest-paid running back in the league.
"It's a business and sometimes you've got to roll with the punches," he said. "Myself, I feel like I'm young enough to go out and rewrite the record books, so it's not a big deal."
Avery said he was in so much pain at times last season, he sometimes took six Advils before practice.
"Even with one leg last year, I was still a big problem (for opposing teams)," he said.
While he's not 100% yet, Avery seems anxious to return to training camp May 29.
"I wouldn't say I have fully recovered because I did slow down the healing process by playing on it last year and coming back early, but it feels 10 times better than it did last year," he said. "When you show up at camp with a limp (last year) and at this camp, you show up running and cutting and doing everything ... teammates tend to rely on you a little bit more and have confidence in you."
When he wasn't rehabbing during the off-season, Avery spent much of his time writing a script for a 12-episode sitcom about the life of a professional athlete. He has shown it to a few people, including the lawyer for Serena and Venus Williams and LeBron James, and received good reviews. He hopes to film a pilot episode.
"It's basically showing people when you become a professional athlete, the only things that change are your bank account and your popularity," Avery said. "You've still got crazy family, crazy friends and you're still human."