TORONTO - Steven Turner has turned heads before and he plans on doing it again.
A ruptured Achilles tendon may have cost him an entire year of his professional football life, but heís back now, 100% healthy again and prepared to pick up where his life left off.
There was plenty of buzz surrounding Turner, nicknamed ďThe AfterburnerĒ this time last year. Turner had wowed them at the CFL Evaluation camp smashing the old mark for the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.31 seconds.
The Argos snapped him up in the fourth round of the draft and everything appeared to be moving along as expected until a simple cut on an ordinary passing play ruptured the Achilles and put his career on hold for the better part of a year.
More than 10 months of rehab has him back on the field vying for the job he had hoped to snare this time last year.
In Florida at an Argos free-agent camp in April, Turner showed the coaching staff he was ready to come back and start contributing.
But all that earned him was a spot in training camp. Heíll have to show more throughout this camp to earn a spot on the 46-man roster when camp breaks.
And Jim Barker, as impressed as he has been by Turnerís return from injury, isnít about to cut the Brampton native and former Bishops standout any slack.
Primarily a running back at Bishops, Turner hasnít had a whole lot of repetitions catching the football so that sure-handedness isnít quite there. When Turner does drop one, Barker lets him know how unacceptable that is.
ďIím not going to lie,Ē Turner said. ďMy hands might have got a little bit rusty over time, but Iím working it. Iím out here working the Juggs machine every day. Iíll keep practising until I donít drop those balls. Coaches get on me, but thatís part of the game. That is their job.Ē
Barker points out the dropsies Turner is experiencing really donít have anything at all to do with the injury he sustained a year ago.
ďPeople forget he was a running back at Bishops,Ē the Argos head coach and general manager said. ďHe wasnít a receiver and it takes time to develop that. He couldnít do that last year because he was injured so thatís why you expect him to drop the ball, because heís learning to be a receiver.Ē
Barker doesnít come across as being overly concerned about Turnerís hands.
ďRight now he just tenses up. ĎOh Barker is going to scream at me again if I donít catch this.í Heís got to just learn how to relax and use his hands. Cos (DeMatteo, Argosí receivers coach) is working hard with him. Right now he just doesnít catch the ball well enough and he knows that.Ē
As for any lingering effects from the injury, neither Barker nor Turner himself have seen any sign of any.
ďTo me itís completely gone, but I guess itís still there a little bit in a psychological kind of way, but I feel fine when Iím running plays and running my routes. Itís really more of an after-effect after itís done, but during the activity I feel great,Ē Turner said. ďI feel I havenít lost a step. I still feel like Iím as fast as I was last year. If anyone wants to question that they can line up against me and weíll see.Ē
Barker is just as adamant.
ďI donít think he has lost any quickness,Ē Barker said. ďYou worry about that change of direction but I donít think that has even been a concern. When I watch him I donít think he even had an Achilles (rupture).Ē
Turnerís blazing speed is the one commodity that has got him where he is today and he knows that. He is also well aware, thanks to countless reminders from so-called well wishers, that the injury he suffered has been known to end careers. Turner takes that all in and uses it for motivation.
ďIíve heard that but I feel like nothing can end someoneís career except themselves so I worked hard in the off-season. Everyone says itís a possible career ender, but I guess Iím going to have to prove them wrong,Ē he said.