Ticats welcome Fantuz back against the Argos
HAMILTON — Andy Fantuz’s 2017 debut comes at an ideal time for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The veteran slotback will return to the lineup Saturday night when Hamilton (3-9) hosts the Toronto Argonauts (6-7). It’s a pivotal game for both teams, as the winner will clinch the season series and improve its playoff chances in the Canadian Football League’s East Division.
Fantuz, 33, missed Hamilton’s first 12 regular-season games with a knee injury suffered last October. The six-foot-four, 218-pound Fantuz was the East Division’s top Canadian in 2016, with a clubrecord 101 catches for 1,059 yards and five TDs.
But the 33-year-old native of Chatham said returning in time for Hamilton’s biggest game of the season was more by chance than a flair for the dramatic.
“It wasn’t by design,” he said Friday.
“But (it’s) definitely a hype home game and it’s nice to be against the Argos and (have) so much on the line. “Nervous isn’t the right word, it’s (being) excited, anxious. I’m looking forward to that first play and get that first hit, and then just playing football and hearing the crowd roar and getting a win.”
Veteran running back C.J. Gable also returns to Hamilton’s lineup. He starts ahead of Alex Green, who rushed for 140 yards in last weekend’s 24-23 road win over the B.C. Lions. Abdul Kanneh also comes off the injured list to start at cornerback.
During his rehabilitation, Fantuz worked in the front office as the club’s co-ordinator of player development. While calling the role “a unique experience,” Fantuz said his time away from the field made him appreciate playing much more.
Fantuz joins a Hamilton squad that’s 3-1 under interim coach June Jones.
Fantuz will combine with veteran Luke Tasker to give Hamilton two viable inside threats and complement the team’s outside speed. Fantuz’s presence will also give Jeremiah Masoli — the Ticats’ starter over its 3-1 stretch — a big target to look for downfield.
Toronto is chasing a third straight win with a new-found ground attack.
But Toronto’s offence will be without veteran tackle Chris Van Zeyl (foot).
Alouettes linebacker Kyries Hebert pulls down Tiger-Cats receiver Andy Fantuz (83) last September. Fantuz returns from injury Saturday.