Avery a long shot to play

Argos running back John Avery watches practice yesterday in Mississauga. Despite the crutches,...

Argos running back John Avery watches practice yesterday in Mississauga. Despite the crutches, Avery still thinks he can play. Head coach Pinball Clemons doesn't agree. (Toronto Sun/David Lucas)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

Argonauts running back John Avery showed up at practice yesterday with crutches, and even more shockingly, Homer Simpson pajama bottoms.

Actually, the choice of pajamas was appropriate, given the fact that when head coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons was told that Avery expects to play on Monday in the annual Labour Classic, the coach's reaction was something along the lines of 'D'oh!'.

Avery, who injured his right ankle in Toronto's 18-15 victory over the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg on Saturday, believes that he'll be able to practice on Friday and will be ready to play Monday.

But Clemons certainly doesn't get that impression, and the last thing the coach wants is for Avery to return to the lineup prematurely and risk damaging the ankle even more.

"He continues to suggest that he's going to play, but he continues to look like he's not," Clemons said. "He's doubtful right now."

The coach said there is a fluid buildup in the ankle, but Avery still isn't writing off Monday's game against the struggling Tiger-Cats, who released offensive co-ordinator Joe Paopao and offensive line coach Kani Kauahi this week and hired Marcel Desjardins as the new GM. If he can't play, the Argos will rely on Canadian running back Jeff Johnson to fill the void.

Still, Avery will be missed, having rushed for 258 total yards in the three games since he returned to the Argos from a hamstring injury. In fact, his play of late will make it extremely difficult for Clemons to sit him out once former NFL star Ricky Williams returns from his broken forearm in 2-3 weeks. When Williams was healthy last time, Avery didn't play.

Avery believes that he could establish himself as one of the best backs in the league, if he got the chance to rush the ball regularly.

"It's like preaching to the choir," Avery said. "I don't care if it's Barry Sanders or O.J. Simpson. O.J. Simpson is not going to look very impressive if he carries the ball five times a game."

Meanwhile, all eyes on Monday at Ivor Wynne Stadium will be on Toronto quarterback Damon Allen, as the Argo quarterback attempts to pass Warren Moon for the most yards gained in pro football.

Allen currently has 70,389 total yards, only 164 shy of Moon, who is expected to be in Toronto for the Sept.9 game at the Rogers Centre, against the Tiger-Cats.

Clemons expects some lineup changes for Monday's game, although he would only confirm Avery's injury.

"It's hard, early in the week, to know the difference between pain and injury," he said. "The one guy we're sure (is injured) is John Avery."

More Ticat changes

Wide receiver Kahlil Hill is returning to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from the NFL while John Salavantis is leaving the broadcast booth to take over as the club's offensive line coach.

Hill, who attended training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars, played six games in Hamilton last season, making 16 receptions for 208 yards and one touchdown.

Salavantis served as assistant coach with the Ticats from 1985-94.


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