August 16, 2006

Landry eager to play

Als’ return dynamo practices at full speed, says knee feels better

By Herb Zurkowsky,
Montreal Gazette

For the first time in months, Ezra Landry has reason for optimism. Someone who loves to run was out on the practice field, returning kicks, cutting and darting at what appeared to be full speed.

“It felt sensational. It was my first day back and I was running at full speed,” Landry, the Alouettes’ diminutive return-specialist, said yesterday. “It felt OK.

Actually, it was great at the beginning of practice.”

Landry doesn’t want to get ahead of himself. It was only one day, but he can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel and believes he’s close to returning to the playing field.

The 5-foot-4, 160-pound dynamo has yet to play this season, after injuring his right knee. The mishap occurred early at training camp, when Landry stretched out for a pass. His condition failed to improve, so he underwent arthroscopic surgery in mid-June. He was medically cleared to resume playing a month ago, but continued experiencing pain from a bruised bone. About two weeks ago, he was told to rest.

Yesterday, Landry took a big first step. He’ll have to continue icing the knee and see how it responds overnight. It’s unlikely he’ll dress Saturday at Toronto, but where Landry’s concerned, anything’s possible. Head coach Don Matthews has the final say and doesn’t disclose his roster until one hour before kickoff.

“Right now, it’s important to get me healthy, 100 per cent, and go from there so I can make cuts and let the coach go from there,” Landry said. “He’s the coach. It’s his job to decide who goes. I’ll keep working hard and it’ll take care of itself.”

The Als have their own demons to overcome following their first loss this season, Saturday at Calgary. The mistakes were numerous, beginning with three fumbles, two by running-back Robert Edwards.

There were other critical errors late in the game.

It seemed innocuous at the time, since it gave the Als a three-point lead, but Damon Duval’s

64-yard punt for a single, at 12:25 of the fourth quarter, wasn’t the correct play under the circumstances. Rather than hemming the Stamps deep in their zone, they scrimmaged at their 35. Seven plays later, Sandro DeAngelis kicked a 52-yard field goal, tying the score with 48 seconds left.

“The plan going into it was to keep them deep, perhaps kick out of bounds,” Duval said. “Unfortunately, I caught the ball better and put it in the end zone. It would have been better to pin them and make them drive 80 or 90 yards.

“It happened. I can’t change it.”

The Als took over at their 35, with overtime looming. Montreal failed to garner a first down. Duval’s punt went 42 yards, to the Calgary 28. Returner David Allen was hit for a two-yard loss.

But defensive-back Chip Cox was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty, and the Stamps had first down at their 41. Three plays later, after a 20-yard pass from Henry Burris to Elijah Thurmon, DeAngelis calmly kicked the winning 53-yard field goal as time expired.

Cox had a great start to the season, only to be replaced in the secondary by Clint Kent after one bad game. This latest incident might further jeopardize his long-term livelihood.

“I was trying to jump over and make the tackle,” he explained. “My arm was out, the returner turned around and I grabbed his facemask. It was a hustle play. I was trying to make a play. Things happen when you’re hustling.”

Notes – Slotback Ben Cahoon wasn’t at practice yesterday. His wife was expecting the birth of the couple’s fourth child. …

Receiver Kerry Watkins has what he described as a slight hip injury, but expects to face the Argonauts this week.