MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Cory Boyd can play the game of football very well. He's just not very good at standing around and watching it.
The Toronto Argonauts will have their rushing leader back in uniform Saturday night when they travel to Hamilton to face the arch-rival Tiger-Cats. Boyd returns after missing four games — all losses — with a knee injury.
"Aw man, words can't explain how I really felt," Boyd said Thursday after repeatedly proving he could run well despite the presence of a brace on his right knee. "A spectator from the sidelines, you can always pinpoint all the wrong things but you know that wasn't the character of our team.
"That's not what we put out in practice, that was not the enthusiasm we played with and that was not how we play ball here. As a collective team we did not play our best ball ... but I think that will change because communication is better between coaches and players and even between players and I think you'll see a better outcome."
The contest is just the seventh of the season for both teams, but it has a lot of significance for the struggling Argos (1-5). After opening the 2011 campaign by winning 23-21 in Calgary, Toronto has lost five straight games and last week fired defensive co-ordinator Chip Garber and replaced him with secondary coach Orlondo Steinauer.
Rookie Chad Kackert stepped in admirably for Boyd, rushing for 314 yards (fifth in the CFL) with an impressive 5.8-yard average per carry. Kackert also scored four touchdowns but had three fumbles, second only to quarterback Cleo Lemon (four) on the Argos squad.
However, Boyd is the player who makes the Argos' offence go. He ran for 100 yards on 17 carries and a TD against Calgary after last season finishing second in the CFL in rushing with 1,359 yards. Boyd's importance is significant considering Toronto has trouble throwing the football consistently (league-low 233.2 yards per game), putting added pressure on the rushing attack.
The six-foot-one, 213-pound Boyd certainly raised eyebrows throughout the CFL in 2010 as he was named a league all-star in his first season north of the border. In the off-season the Argos rewarded their hard-running tailback with a contract extension through the 2013 season.
Boyd was injured the second week of the season in Winnipeg and Toronto hasn't won a game since.
Boyd said he wanted to return in time for last week's 36-23 home loss to Montreal but Argos head coach and general manager Jim Barker held him out as a precaution and says the extra time seems to have paid off.
"He has practised very well," Barker said. "I thought he practised well last week and I like them to practise a week before they come back.
"He just brings so much in terms of protection and understanding what we're doing. I thought he looked very good."
The initial diagnosis of Boyd's injury was he'd miss two-to-three weeks. The Argos tailback admitted he was frustrated it took him longer to recover but feels the extra time was well spent.
"We took a little bit more time to make sure, Boyd said. "Precautionary measures.
"I wanted to play last week but now we have Hamilton up and I'm looking forward to being a leader and the rushing player I've always been."
Hamilton (3-3) is in the thick of it in the East Division behind front-running Winnipeg (5-1) and Montreal (4-2). However, given the intensity of the long-standing rivalry between the Ticats and Argos, where the two teams are in the standings rarely matters when they get together.
"Anytime Toronto plays Hamilton there's a great rivalry," Barker said. "I know our players are very very excited about it.
"You can play at Christmas, play anytime, play anywhere, play out there in that parking lot and I think it's going to be very intense. That's the way it should be."
Boyd is gearing up for a hard-hitting return.
"We know they're a physical team and are going to bring it every play," he said. "We have to match their intensity."
Boyd is anxious to do what he can to help Toronto reverse its fortunes and remains confident he can inject life into the club's offensive scheme. However, he's also quick to point out he's but one of 12 Argos on the field.
"I know I am one man and that I have a lot of abilities and character that I can bring to the team,'' he said. "But I also know there are 11 other guys who can do the same thing.