Prefontaine's long-term future in limbo

Argonauts kicker Noel Prefontaine reacts after missing a field goal against the Eskimos at...

Argonauts kicker Noel Prefontaine reacts after missing a field goal against the Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alta., June 30, 2012. (CODIE McLACHLAN/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:57 AM ET

TORONTO - Noel Prefontaine’s football future is very much up in the air, a kicker who played the sport unlike any of his punting ilk.

It says a lot about the guy known as Pre that he’d often be the first guy down the field on punt or kickoff coverage, often making tackles.

For those in attendance at Toronto’s home opener against Calgary, it was Prefontaine who delivered the tackle on the opening kickoff against returner Larry Taylor, the same guy who would later return a missed field goal 125 yards for a touchdown.

Ultimately, it may have been Prefontaine’s physical dimension that has led to his current hip condition, an injury that has placed the veteran on the nine-game injured list.

By the tone of GM Jim Barker’s voice, surgery awaits and then a whole new set of circumstances begins to surface, clearly placing Prefontaine’s long-term future in limbo.

According to Barker, the option to proceed with surgery has existed for the better part of two years, but Prefontaine elected to persevere because his condition did not impact his ability on the field.

That all changed in last week’s loss in Hamilton, where Prefontaine could not play in the second half after he aggravated his hip.

“He can’t control where his (plant) foot is,’’ Barker said of the left-footed Prefontaine. “He can’t get the consistency that he needs.”

Barker stressed that strength is not an issue with Prefontaine, but rather mechanically because the injury has had an affect on his punting and kicking fundamentals.

No date has been set for the surgery and no time line been placed on a possible return.

Until doctors inspect the damage, it’s way too premature to put a date to a potential return.

If this is the end for Prefontaine, and many are hoping it’s not, then he should be known for his unique way he approached football and his big leg.

Here’s a guy who played quarterback, had the mentality of a free safety and was never afraid to initiate contact.

Prefontaine revolutionized the position and has served as a mentor to many of today’s kickers.

Argos special teams co-ordinator Mike O’Shea was a linebacker in Toronto back in the day when this fresh-faced kid came on the scene.

“He was kicking 70-yard bombs the first day,’’ said O’Shea.

“We’d be meeting as a defence on one side of the field and we’d be asking ourselves: ‘Who is this kid?’ ’’

Argo players voted Prefontaine special-teams captain this season, a role O’Shea hopes his veteran will continue to provide.

“He just can’t do it anymore,’’ said O’Shea. “But Pre’s still captain. He’s very valuable and he’ll be helping me out on the sideline.”

In the wake of Prefontaine’s injury, the Argos have signed import Swayze Waters.

THUNDERING WATERS ROLLS IN

The first thing you should know about Swayze Waters is the origin of his name.

Contrary to popular belief, he was not named after the former actor Patrick Swayze, who died in 2009.

“It gets asked a lot,’’ Toronto’s newest punter/kicker said on Monday, a day that began with Waters arriving in town in the wee hours. “It (Swayze) was my great grandmother’s maiden name.”

Waters now has that long-awaited chance to make a name for himself, carve a niche in football that may one day bring him back to the NFL.

The life of a punter, especially an American in the CFL, is as unpredictable as the rules governing three-down football.

At last count, Waters is now with his seventh team in the last four years. But in Toronto, he’ll actually have a chance, his future pretty much based on performance because there’s veteran waiting in the wing.

Anthony Alix, a kid who basically gave up his remaining CIS eligibility when he suited last week in Hamilton, is in the developmental stage of his career, a big-legged punter who needs to fine-tune his craft.

When a roster space came up last week following Jason Pottinger’s hamstring injury, Alix was activated from the practice roster, ostensibly to be used on kickoffs.

That was until Noel Prefontaine, who had Grant Shaw around the past two years to handle kickoff duties, got hurt.

When the extent of Prefontaine’s hip injury became more clear on Sunday, the Argos turned to Waters.

The computer savvy can catch a YouTube video that features Waters, a native of Jackson, Miss., booting a 70-yard field goal.

Waters can handle every kicking scenario and the Argos do have a spot for Alix if the decision gets make to dress both for Wednesday’s home game versus Winnipeg.

In Edmonton, Waters competed for Shaw, unaware of who would get the call until the very last moment before game time.

In Toronto, Waters understands the void he’s been asked to replace. “It’s an honour,’’ Waters said. “I have big shoes to fill and I’m up for the challenge. I’ve been kicking well.”

GM Jim Barker wanted to bring in a Justin Medlock-type kicker, someone who could hit long field goals in the wake of a Ricky Ray led offence that will move the football.

Medlock was so good in the CFL that he was signed by the NFL after a stellar season last year in The Hammer.

Waters has taken his kick at the NFL, a league Barker first got wind of Waters’ skills when Barker ran Calgary and had assistant coach Craig Dickenson scout the Oakland Raiders, one of a handful of teams Waters auditioned.

“There are a lot of ups and downs,’’ said Waters of his pro existence. “It’s a roller-coaster and it’s something unfortunately you get used to.

“I really like to stick somewhere.”

The Argonauts are hoping it’s with them.


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