Running on instinct

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

From the moment the ball lands in his hands, there is a sense of anticipation that anything can happen.

He may take a slight step, deceive a would-be tackler and head straight up the field untouched.

Or he may cross the entire length of the field, reverse his footing and go the other way, running some 60 yards and gaining only a handful.

Or he may run backward and end up losing yards.

With return man Bashir Levingston, you just never know.

Following a turbulent off-season in which he opted to restructure his contract rather than be released and seek employment with another team, the returner has returned for his fifth term with the Argonauts.

On a team that includes Arland Bruce, free-agent signing Keith Stokes and receiver Tony Miles, the Argos have a plethora of returners who can put points on the board. But none are as dangerous as Levingston. He has the team record for most career returns for touchdowns with 13, five more than head coach Pinball Clemons, who totalled all of his in 11 1/2 seasons. Levingston already has seven touchdowns on punt returns.

Levingston can turn around a game with a single play, and he is not bashful when it comes to discussing his ability to do it. He believes he's the best return player in the Canadian Football League.

"Sometimes (the opposition) is calling out which way the return is going," he said. "They know if we're setting up this way or running back this way. You can't be a robot. Anybody can catch it and run straight ahead or do whatever. But great returners are the ones who adapt when things don't go according to plan."

Stokes, who described himself as a "compass guy" because he runs east, west, north, south, said Levingston is simply a flat-out speed guy.

"I don't know if he's going to change, that's what he does," Stokes said. "He goes back, turns the corner, outruns whoever is there because they're not going to catch him. You can't teach speed. You either have it or you don't. He has it."

And sometimes he loses yards.

"You've got to take the good with the bad," Stokes said. "This guy won special team player of the year (in 2003). He's obviously doing something right."

When Levingston re-worked his contract in the off-season he was promised the opportunity to receive playing time at cornerback if he worked hard in practice. So far, he'll be limited to doing what he does best -- running back kicks, punts, missed field goals and kickoffs.

"Bashir is a very accomplished return man and sometimes people feel he may be doing something other than what we've asked him, but he has learned to work within the scheme," Clemons said. "At times he does do his own thing, but a lot of times that leads to yards for us. We don't want to take his instinctive abilities away from him. When you over-coach guys that are that talented, you have a tendency to make them hesitant. We want him to continue to be who he is."


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