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Surviving test to surgically repaired shoulder has boosted Coombs' confidence

06/05/2015 12:22 EDT | Updated 06/05/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Anthony Coombs wasted no time answering any lingering questions regarding his surgically repaired left shoulder.

When training camp opened almost a week ago, the Toronto Argonauts' sophomore slotback/running back was tasked with coming down the line of scrimmage and blocking a defensive end. At the snap of the ball, the five-foot-nine, 190-pound Winnipeg native lowered his shoulder to deliver the blow.

"I didn't think about it, I just went in and hit him," Coombs said. "He gave me a good pop and it (shoulder) didn't pop out.

"I felt no pain but actually didn't realize until after, 'Hey, you know what this is feeling pretty good.' It was a reassuring feeling for my confidence that I could move on and concentrate on getting better."

The Argos selected Coombs in the first round, third overall, in the 2014 CFL draft out of the University of Manitoba. The Winnipeg native appeared in six games — starting five after veteran slotback Andre Durie suffered a broken collarbone — before enduring the season-ending shoulder ailment.

But Coombs' versatility became apparent early as he saw action at running back and slotback while also playing special teams. He ran for 75 yards on eight carries while adding 22 catches for 214 yards.

And on Friday, Coombs also saw practice time at wide receiver.

"He's doing a very nice job," Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said of Coombs. "We moved him to a different spot just to kind of keep him working with his flexibility in different spots we could put him in.

"He's really had an excellent camp, one of the best camps of all the guys. We're just trying to find different ways to get him on the field."

Coombs said he's much more comfortable at training camp now than he was last year as a rookie. The adjustment to life as a pro from university is a big one, he added.

"Year two, you know how to be a pro," he said. "It starts with meetings and preparations for practice.

"Knowing what to expect I know how to anticipate how the day is going to go. Right now things are going very well for me because the game is slowing down. Comparing this year to last year, it's not even close."

Coombs said his biggest adjustment last year wasn't dealing with bigger, stronger players.

"It's taking care of your body so you're good for the next day," he said. "It's getting into your (playbook) and compromising with six hours of sleep instead of eight because you have to study.

"It's the little things like that which help you scale down the challenge to get to the next level."

Being injured also taught Coombs a valuable lesson about the difficulty of life away from the team and dealing with the helpessness of being unable to contribute.

"It's very tough because you feel detached from the team," he said. ""I went back home for surgery so I watched them on TV and when I returned to Toronto there wasn't really much I could do.

"I'd do some therapy for five minutes but I couldn't rehab my shoulder because it wasn't strong enough yet. I have a new respect about being healthy."

With CFL teams only allowed to keep 46 players on the game-day roster, having those capable of playing multiple positions takes on significant important. Although he played running back before coming to the CFL, Coombs has come to appreciate the nuances of the slotback spot.

"The position I like the best is the inside slot because it's so dynamic," he said. "You can been anywhere on the field."

Coombs admits the jump from university football to the pro ranks is huge but one a young player can make with the right mindset.

"It's a beautiful struggle," he said. "Camp is a grind, the season is a grind but I've come to terms with this being the life I've chosen.

"I've been making sure all training sessions are treated as work as if I'm in an office and I feel it's helped me a lot. I feel once you accept the struggle and embrace it, everything becomes easier."

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