Fletcher kneeds a break

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

Dominance and durability have become Michael Fletcher's hallmarks.

A football warrior who has worn the Argos uniform for the past four years, Fletcher plays with a passion unmatched in the CFL.

He often plays through pain and produced a career season last year in which Fletcher never missed a beat or a defensive assignment, despite nursing a knee injury.

While it's not the same knee, an injury to Fletcher's other knee will reduce the all-star to the unfamiliar role of spectator as the Argos usher in the regular season Saturday against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at the Rogers Centre.

For the past three years, Fletcher played in all 18 games, capped by a stellar season last year when the 5-foot-10 linebacker was voted the top defensive player in the Eastern Division.

"I'm the type of player who wants to get better each year and obviously I was coming off a very dominant year," Fletcher said yesterday as the Argos returned to the practice field. "I prepared myself all off-season to play in every game.

"The good thing about this injury is that it occurred now rather than later. Once I get back, there's no reason why I can't continue to be an impact player."

Fletcher hurt his left knee in last Friday's pre-season finale on a freak play against the Ticats in Hamilton when Eric England landed on Fletcher. He knew something was amiss, but remained in the game for one play, making a tackle and then deciding to exit for fear of further damage.

"It was so freakish you can't even see it on film in normal speed," Fletcher said. "I had to slow the film down. It was exactly what I thought. It wasn't the usual hit of a helmet on knee. Eric landed directly on the inside of my knee, which was exposed, and I felt the pain."

Fletcher, whose injury officially has been diagnosed as a sprain to his medial collateral ligament, will be out for a minimum of three weeks.

When he earned league-wide acclaim last season, Fletcher played the season's final 13 games with a brace to protect damage to his right knee.

"There's a lot of football left this season and I'm usually a fast healer," Fletcher said.

"What's hard now isn't the pain in my knee, but just sitting there and watching. I'm not good at that and it's going to test my patience."

Allen ailing no more

Quarterback Damon Allen, who was hurt in Hamilton, practised with the first-team offence yesterday and looked in rhythm.

There was some angst about the veteran's status when Allen left the game on Toronto's second offensive series with a suspected arm injury.


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