Avery eager to strut his stuff

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

There's more reason than ever to watch running back John Avery in training camp.

Heading into his third season with the Argos, Avery will be hoping to make it through without any physical setbacks.

In his first season, he was hobbled by a knee problem resulting from surgery eight months before and missed most of training camp and both pre-season games.

Last season, an injury near the groin area limited his training camp participation after looking fleet on his feet in the first few practices. He missed both pre-season games after that and the season opener, while rookie sensation Hakim Hill garnered some early notice.

This year the talk is about Ricky Williams, the Miami Dolphins running back who has been suspended from the National Football League for the 2006 season for substance abuse violations but may be joining the Argos if a contract can be consummated.

It has been speculated that no matter what Avery does in training camp, there won't be room on the roster for both he and Williams.

Avery, who normally is quotable on any subject no matter who sensitive, does not want to answer any questions pertaining to Williams.

Head coach Pinball Clemons understands Avery's decision, but said he can't prevent it from becoming a distraction.

"His job is to make sure it isn't (a distraction) for him," Clemons said.

"That's what he has to do as a pro.

"The big thing is he doesn't control that, so he really can't answer things that are out of his control."

Avery has come into training camp 11 pounds lighter than last year when he weighed in at about 196, a product of over-training to strengthen his knee.

"I feel like myself again," he said. "It has been a rough two years on me, but today coming out here and running around and feeling fast and athletic, I feel like can do some things I used to do, so it feels good.

"I feel like a cat because every time I make a cut, I hear something go 'meow.'"

When asked if this will finally be his year with the Argos after two seasons of physical, mental and emotional stress, he said: "I hope so. You never know. You're only one play away from an injury. My body feels good. I feel like a champ. I'm just ready to let the first (guy) hit me and see what happens."

Avery took a nasty physical shot from linebacker Kevin Eiben, but regained his feet after a few seconds without any noticeable setbacks.

Clemons said Avery has a spring in his step and clarity of thought.

"He just wants to play football," Clemons said. "He does have a lot of hop, but what I see the most is a guy that wants to play. His mind is free."


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