Fantuz optimistic about playing soon

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Andy Fantuz showed the Chatham-Kent Cougars how to shake off defensive backs, run routes and catch passes Tuesday.

Fantuz is optimistic he’ll be doing the same again soon for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The veteran slotback from Chatham has missed all season rehabbing his injured knee, but his layoff may be coming to an end.

“I’m planning to come back this year, probably in the next month or so,” he said before hosting a skills clinic at the Chatham-Kent Community Athletic Complex.

Fantuz hasn’t played since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last October.

He re-signed with the Ticats in the off-season and has been working as their co-ordinator of player development.

“I’m honestly more of just a player than anything, but I can have meetings with the coaches and just talk offence and give my say,” he said. “It’s a little bit more input than just an injured player would have, but the No. 1 priority is my rehab.”

Fantuz, 33, is pleased with the progress of his rehabilitation.

“It’s coming along really well,” he said. “I’m really close. I’m just at the final stretch of introducing contact and things like that, but running is full speed and I feel great.”

The Ticats, however, aren’t doing great. At 0-8, they’re the only winless team in the CFL.

Fantuz is on the sideline during games. He speaks with the players and relays messages from the coaches.

“I’m helping out, just talking to the young guys and making sure that we’re all on the same page,” he said. “It’s still fun. It’s just not quite as fun.”

The new job lets him stay involved with the Ticats on a daily basis, but he’d much prefer to be on the field.

“Any time you’re on the sideline it’s really frustrating,” Fantuz said. “No matter how long the injury can be, it sucks to not be out there. And then when the team’s not doing so well and you feel like you might be able to help if you were out there, it hurts a little bit extra. But it’s one of those things you can’t rush back.

“You can’t let what’s going on with the team affect your decision. You’ve just got to make sure you’re 100 per cent. You want to be able to walk in five years and 10 years and not re-injure it. These are those months where you’ve got to be careful because it’s susceptible to re-injury.”

Fantuz has made 631 catches for 8,308 yards and 44 touchdowns during 11 CFL seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Ticats.

Last year’s knee injury ended one of his best seasons. He set a career-high with a team-record 101 receptions.

Fantuz was also in Chatham on Tuesday to be named the honorary chairman for the Foundation of Chatham-Kent Health Alliance diagnostic imaging equipment renewal campaign.

The campaign has already raised $4.5 million towards its $6.9-million target. The money will be used to buy 18 pieces of equipment, including ultrasound machines, a mammography machine and a CT scanner, for the health alliance.

“I’ve used that kind of diagnostic imaging a lot in my career,” Fantuz said. “One time it probably saved my leg and my career. In sports I know how important it can be to get a good picture of what’s going on so you can plan your proper recovery and rehab.

“But the scope goes way beyond sports and athletics. A lot more serious health issues need that stuff and need that equipment and need those doctors to be able to use the top-of-the-line stuff. And it also will attract new physicians to the area and just improve Chatham-Kent as a community.

“I’m really honoured to be a part of it and that’s the main reason why I’m here today.”

More information on the fundraising campaign is available at www.foundationckha.com.


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