Getting healthy the top priority for Fantuz

The number one priority, by far, is Andy Fantuz recovering from his knee surgery strongly enough to play this year.

That was made very clear by both Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach Kent Austin and the elite receiver himself at Friday’s press conference to discuss Fantuz’ new off-field position as coordinator of player development.

“What I’ve been told is my rehab is my No. 1 priority,” Fantuz said. “Whatever I’m doing for my rehab trumps everything else.”

Fantuz was enjoying a spectacular 2016 campaign when he tore his ACL while cutting on a pass pattern during a loss to Edmonton on October 28. With 101 receptions through 17 games he had shattered his own personal high (87, set in 2010) and had reached the 1000-yard mark (1059) for just the second time in his 11-year career. He was the first Ticat receiver to record 100 or more receptions, breaking the club mark of 98 co-held by Darren Flutie.

Fantuz, who became a free agent in February, underwent reconstructive surgery in November and the “window” for recovery from ACL surgery is generally from eight months to a year. So late August would likely be the earliest he could return to playing, but Fantuz refused to speculate on a time line.

When he’s cleared medically to play, he’ll sign a players contract with Hamilton, Fantuz said.

He’s been keeping the rest of his body fit, says, “he feels really good,” and is now back running, even making light, pre-meditated cuts.

Fantuz said that duringtraining camp, which opens next weekend, and in the regular season until he’s playing, he’ll be “helping all the players, the young guys, and especially the receivers, learn the offence, and with route-running. Whatever Stef (offensive coordinator Stefan Ptaszek) needs.
“It’s nice to be doing that kind of leadership role. It’s similar to what I’ve been doing in the past but in a more official way, to add some value added to the club.”

Austin took a shot at critics who’ve suggested the Fantuz hiring is a way of keeping on the payroll, without signing him as a free agent, saying that’s why he said he’d “vetted” Fantuz’s new role with the CFL office.

“I’m referring to the idiocy of some of the stuff that has been reported that this is a contravention ofsomething,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

He said Fantuz, who knows the team’s complicated offensive structure “better than just about anyone”, would help players develop physically and mentally, work with them on route-running, would critique players, and “help create shortcuts for players in their understanding, to bring them up to speed more quickly.”

Austin said that while Fantuz’s specific tasks might change from day to day, those tasks, “will be highly-defined. We wanted to make sure it was defined properly so everybody understood, not just Andy and the coaches, but the players too., on what the role will be and why, and to make sure there will be a smooth transition.”

The Tiger-Cats will have at least 16 receivers in camp, and the coaching staff won’t have time to work with every one of them on every detail that they have to absorb in a highly-compressed training camp. That’s where Fantuz will step in

“He’s a unique player for us; Austin said. “Obviously I wouldn’t do this with just about anyone else.

“Some of these things Andy has been doing naturally. Certainly not at the level that we’re asking him to do now but these are natural roles, because he’s a leader on the team. When he comes back and he’s ready to play, and we get him under contract, then his focus will be on playing, but he’s always going to help the others.”

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Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (152 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

4 Comments on Getting healthy the top priority for Fantuz

  1. solara2000 // May 19, 2017 at 6:34 pm //

    Posted on ‘Theories…’ story so won’t repeat. Smart business move, recognizes there is more to the player than 3 Downs and signals loyalty is a 2-way street.
    Kudos to the club and to AF.

  2. oirbety // May 20, 2017 at 2:40 pm //

    Austin is just admitting that this phony title given is just an end-around and likewise is trying to defend to everybody else.

  3. Fantuz is the best canuck receiver bar none. To get a jump on coaching is great for him, canada and the league.

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