Jonathan Brown is done with sitting around.
The Argonauts' defence got a big boost yesterday when the perennial all-star practised for the first time at training camp as he recovers from a disc problem in his back.
"Not being able to come out here in camp and sweat and be tired with my boys who I have gone to war with, was the hardest thing in my life," the 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive end said. "I was going back to my room and be: 'Man, I can't believe this, I am not out there.'
"I'm usually the guy who is out there getting everybody ready to play. I just had to take my time and I'm ready to go."
Joining Brown along the line was another integral starter, defensive tackle Adriano Belli. The latter has been going head-to-head with a pelvis injury and did not play in the pre-season opener on Wednesday, a 37-24 loss to the Montreal Alouettes at the Rogers Centre.
Among those who did not practise under cloudy skies at the Argos' training facility in Mississauga were quarterback Stephen Reaves (ankle) and centre Dominic Picard (ankle), but neither is expected to be on the sideline long. Receiver Jerome Mathis, signed during the off-season to help replace the special teams yards that disappeared when Dominique Dorsey caught on with the Washington Redskins, appears to be inching closer to suiting up. Mathis has been slowed by a hamstring injury.
Though there had been speculation that Brown's injury might have been enough to make him lose his spot on the roster, head coach Bart Andrus was relieved to see the five-year CFL veteran on the field. Since signing with the Argos in 2004, Brown has been an all-star four times and has missed just two games.
"Getting Jonathan back out there is going to be a big plus for everybody," Andrus, who had Brown in 2003 with Amsterdam of the now-defunct NFL Europe, said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him work his way back in."
Brown's challenge is that he is not getting any younger. At 33, he has played a lot of football and the back trouble is proof. Staying healthy after experiencing back woes can be tricky, and Brown acknowledged he had a bit of pain yesterday.
"It concerned me at first, but after I had an MRI and found out I could not do anything worse and I don't need to have surgery, I'm good," Brown said. "My mind is ready."
There was another good piece of news for the players in general. Andrus said today will mark the final time at camp that the Boatmen endure two-a-day practices, going down to one daily workout in preparation for the final pre-season game, on Tuesday in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats.