After more than six frustrating weeks on the sidelines, Antonious Bonner can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Argos linebacker, who has been out since suffering a back injury in the season opener June 25, may return to the lineup Friday against the Montreal Alouettes at the Rogers Centre.
"I feel real good," Bonner, who has taken reps with the first-team defence this week, said. "This is the week to come back for me. This was the first time ever hurting my back, so I really didn't know what to expect. I thought I could come back (for the second game), but I wasn't (ready)."
The ninth-year Argo said his back "locked up" while blitzing in the second quarter against the B.C. Lions on June 25. Since then, Bonner has been dealing with back spasms and pain in the hip flexor area, keeping him out of five games.
"I'm not completely pain free," Bonner, who feels he is 90%, said. "I still have a little bit of pain, but it's not bad enough that I can't play. There's a difference between being injured and being hurt and right now, I just think I'm hurt."
The Argos will not make a decision on Bonner's status for Friday until later in the week. Ray Mariuz, Derrick (Bo) Lewis and Chuck Winters have filled in for Bonner.
"There are injuries that are more serious, but you know what they are," Argos coach Pinball Clemons said. "He has got one of those things that could be recurring as well. We want to be patient with him and be smart and try to do the right thing. Thus far, I think we've been pretty patient. He's growing impatient. Whether one more week is what we need to do, we'll probably only be able to determine that once he goes full speed a couple of days and see how he feels."
Watching, instead of playing, hasn't been fun for Bonner, who played all 23 games for the Argos last season.
"Nerve-wracking, very nerve-wracking," he said. "It's a lot easier when you're out there and you can do something about what's going on."
The absence of Alouettes' star receiver Ben Cahoon, who broke his left wrist and elbow Thursday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, will not make things easier for the Argos, Clemons said. "In a single game, teams rally around those kind of things," he said. "It really is a rallying cry. When you've got 39 other guys who all are playing better, they can compensate." ... Running back John Avery, who has taken it easy in practice this week because of a hamstring problem, said he'll be good to go Friday ... Quarterback Damon Allen (ankle) and receiver R. Jay Soward (rotator cuff) did not practise.
Scotiabank has reached a two-year deal with the CFL to sponsor the league's conference championship games, starting this year. Financial details of the agreement weren't divulged but a league source requesting anonymity said the agreement totals more than $4 million.