Pat Watkins returns to Argonauts

Toronto Argonauts cornerback Pat Watkins (right) greets a teammate at practice at Varsity Stadium...

Toronto Argonauts cornerback Pat Watkins (right) greets a teammate at practice at Varsity Stadium on June 19, 2013. (VERONICA HENRI/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:16 AM ET

TORONTO - Pat Watkins was given a standing ovation when he addressed his Double Blue teammates on Wednesday, a reception that speaks to Watkins' presence inside the team's locker room.

For months, Watkins has been forced to deal with real life, an ordeal, which will remain private, that took far too long in being resolved.

"Sometimes life interferes with football,'' began Watkins. "And vice versa.

"It's a beautiful day. I'm happy to be here and that's the great thing because I have that to look forward to."

Watkins looked like a guy who can easily strap on his shoulder pads and resume his role as Toronto's starting corner as early as Thursday's pre-season finale against Montreal.

Medical clearance must first be approved and then it's up to Watkins to regain his role, which would appear to be a formality.

At point during this prolonged process, the Argos were worried about Watkins when no communication was being engaged.

It was only recently when the team made contact with Watkins, who lives in Florida, and the possibility of the all-star player returning became more realistic.

In the past few weeks, head coach Scott Milanovich has periodically touched base with Watkins, who gave assurances that a resolution would soon arrive.

"I can't say enough about him,'' said Milanovich. "He's a professional, he comes to work every day. He doesn't say a lot, but he comes to play and he loves the game."

Watkins hasn't played since last fall's East semi, when he sprained an ankle which would keep Watkins out of the East final and the Grey Cup.

In his absence, Jalil Carter stepped in and did not look out of place.

In the off-season, Carter added strength to an already athletic body that will serve him well when jamming receivers.

While some unknown names have started to make a name for themselves, no one is in Watkins' class.

Assuming there's no medical condition that raises a flag, what Watkins provides is a shut-down corner who'll make plays in the secondary.

On paper, Toronto's secondary isn't as bleak as once feared, even though inexperience exists.

Up the middle, the Argos have arguably the best inside presence in the CFL with tackles Khalif Mitchell and Kevin Huntley capable of controlling the line of scrimmage.

At middle linebacker, Robert McCune is among the most fundamentally sound tacklers in football.

There's playmaking linebackers to the outside of McCune and now Watkins adds yet another dimension in the back end.

The Canadian tandem of Matt Black and Jermaine Gabriel have exceeded expectations at free safety, a spot that suddenly became open when veteran Jordan Younger abruptly informed the team of his decision to retire.

The questions remain at halfback, a position Watkins auditioned for in the season finale last season against Hamilton.

Playing on an island and playing inside the box is akin to a receiver being asked to line up at wideout and then move inside to the slot, a transition that requires different skills and body type.

Once Thursday's exhibition finale is in the books, the Scullers will have to trim their roster and then prepare for next Friday's home opener against the Ticats.

If all goes well, Watkins should be back on the practice field early next week.

But pro football is a very fluid business with no guarantees.

Whether it was Watkins' arrival or the Argos practising at Varsity, Wednesday was one of those feel-good moments in Argoland.

The bottom line, though, is the simple fact the Argos are in the business of winning games and every option gets explored to field the best possible team.


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