TORONTO — There’s no way Noel Prefontaine wanted to cap his career with such a heartbreaking ending.
Turns out, he didn’t.
The Argonauts veteran kicker/punter could play Sunday for the first time since he had hip surgery in July, a procedure he feared at the time might end his career.
“It’s been quite a road for me, rehab and trying to get my hip ready and thinking before the surgery that my career could possibly be over,” Prefontaine said Saturday after the Argos’ walkthrough at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus. “To say I’m 100 per cent at this point would be a falsehood, but having said that I think I can contribute and we’ll see what happens (Sunday).”
The Argonauts host the Montreal Alouettes in a battle for first place in the East Division.
The 38-year-old Grey Cup champion underwent surgery to repair a four-centimetre labrum tear in his left hip 10 weeks ago. His last game was against Hamilton on July 14 and Prefontaine said at the time that “as an Argonaut, you don’t want to end your career in Hamilton.”
He was told he could be sidelined for four to six months, and was concerned about the chances of resuming his career at his age. Not only has he managed to rebound, but he’s done so well ahead of schedule.
“Obviously I’m pretty fast in terms of getting there. Nobody can talk about my age unless it’s in a good way,” Prefontaine said. “I’m sure (the doctor) is pretty surprised or impressed at least. It took a lot of time, a lot of commitment, a lot of sacrifice, for not only but my family, I was able to spend a lot of hours getting ready.” The five-foot-11 kicker had played through the ailment for a couple of years — first suffering the injury while with Edmonton — and finally underwent surgery when his bad hip started drastically affecting his kicking mechanics.
Prefontaine said if he plays Sunday he’ll likely just punt which works in Toronto’s favour — kicker Swayze Water can’t handle punts because of thumb injury.
“If I do play it’s better off that I transition back into this,” Prefontaine said. “I haven’t played in 13 games right, so it’s going to be a transition. I’m going to have to shake some rust off.”
Toronto coach Scott Milanovich hadn’t entirely decided Saturday if Prefontaine would play or not, saying he would “sleep on it.” But Milanovich was happy at the prospect of having the veteran back in the lineup in a game that could come down to field position.
“It’s not a playoff game but it feels like one, and so you want to give yourself the best chance that you have to win the game,” Milanovich said. “Obviously Pre’s a veteran, he’s been there, he’s played in big games and if it comes down to a directional kick or something like that I wanted to ability to go to him tomorrow.”
Prefontaine said he won’t let the hip hold him back if he’s forced to make a tackle on returns.
“I said this before the surgery, it wasn’t about me getting back from resurrecting my career, it was about the Toronto Argonauts winning football games,” Prefontaine said. “I always think about that aspect, being able to cover and being part of the coverage. To me that’s just as important as me kicking the ball.
“So I wouldn’t have told (the coaching staff) that I’m ready to go unless I could do that part.”
Prefontaine said he’s not yet 100 per cent, but hopes to be by the playoffs.
“That was really my goal when I came out of surgery was not to sit there and let it heal but put the work in and try to make it back,” he said.
Prefontaine joined the Argos as an unheralded punter in 1998 out of San Diego State. He began kicking field goals in 2002 and has made 332-of-457 career attempts, a 72.6 per cent success ratio. He helped Toronto to a Grey Cup title in 2004.
Prefontaine spent his first 10 CFL seasons in Toronto before being dealt to Edmonton in 2008. The Double Blue re-acquired the kicker in October of 2010.
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