Payton looks for redemption

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

Jarrett Payton returns to Montreal tomorrow for the first time since the Alouettes discarded him like a dried up, month-old dog bone.

The Argonauts running back-turned-fullback has been dreaming about this moment since he went from Montreal's leading rusher in 2007 to the team doghouse.

"This is something I've been waiting for since I was sitting at home last year. I wanted a chance to play them ... to show people that you've still got it," Payton said yesterday. "I was one of the best backs in the league and to then not have a job was tough."

Hero to history in a blink. It is a familiar story in the Canadian Football League.

RISKY BUSINESS

"We were talking about that the other day. What league do you know where a couple quarterbacks have a bad week and another guy sitting at home watching TV gets called and starts the next week and ends up winning the game," he said, alluding to Michael Bishop's debut in Winnipeg. "You just don't know what's going to happen next week. You just don't."

Nobody could've blamed Payton if he believed he would still be in Montreal. Instead, four days into training camp in 2008, practising a goal line play he carried the ball and one of the Alouettes' rookies fell on his ankle. "It broke his ribs," Payton said.

It also crushed Payton's ankle and in stepped Avon Cobourne. A couple weeks later, Payton got a pink slip; Cobourne got his job.

"People say: 'Are you mad at the Alouettes?' I'm not mad. It's the business," Payton said. But he's smart enough to know that his injury made it a simple decision for the Alouettes to keep the untested Cobourne while letting him go.

And, he's human enough to admit that this game has more personal meaning than any on the schedule.

"I'm very excited. This is the first time I've played against a team that I used to play for. I have nothing bad to say about the organization. I have friends there," he said, but adds: "Sometimes you hear things...".

Signed by Toronto in the off-season, his opportunities have been limited with Jamal Robertson the feature back. But coach Bart Andrus has begun utilizing both in a two-back set lately.

"He gives us a big guy who can run with the ball and can block," Andrus said. "He's explosive as a runner. When the defence lines up and Jamal and Jarrett are in the backfield they're not sure who's getting the ball."

Against Winnipeg he caught two passes and ran the ball a couple times for 23 yards.

"I'm starting to get more of a role in the offence. It's more fun when you get to go out there," said Payton, who is playing fullback for the first time since college when he opened holes for Clinton Porter.

The coach can empathize with Payton's feelings about returning to Montreal. As a co-ordinator with Rhein in NFL Europe, Andrus left to become head coach in Amsterdam.

"I'd bet he's looking forward to going back," Andrus said. "You do that as coaches too -- it adds excitement to the game for you personally. It was a special time for me. There wasn't animosity but I wanted to do well."

He did. Amsterdam won the World Bowl.

Payton has more modest goals.

"My wife was watching last week and said: 'You ran over that guy. You made a spark.' That's all I want," he said. "I'm not looking to have 20 carries. I'm past that in my life. When you sit at home for a year it puts things in perspective. Before it was 'I need to be the starter'. You have to compromise.

"I know I can play this game and I want to help this team win."


Videos

Photos