TORONTO — Head coach Marc Trestman won't be easing Anthony Coombs back into the Toronto Argonauts' lineup.
The 25-year-old Winnipeg native practised Tuesday after being activated from the six-game injured list. Trestman said Coombs will start Saturday night when Toronto (8-9) visits the B.C. Lions (7-10) in the regular-season finale for both teams.
"He had a very good practice," Trestman said. "He's our most versatile player because he not only has to be considered a receiver but a running back as well."
The five-foot-nine, 199-pound Coombs, who has played both running back and slotback in Toronto's offence, suffered a broken collarbone in a 38-6 win over Montreal on Aug. 19 that required surgery. The former Manitoba Bisons star, taken third overall by the Argos in the '14 CFL draft, was enjoying a solid season with 47 catches for 426 yards and a TD in nine games.
Trestman said rookie Jimmy Ralph, a native of Raymond, Alta., who played slotback in Coombs' absence, won't play Saturday due to a leg injury.
Despite the lengthy absence, Coombs said he quickly got back into the swing of things Tuesday.
"It felt good just to get out and run with the team and catch some balls from Ricky (Argos quarterback Ricky Ray)," Coombs said. "It felt natural.
"Every time we had a meeting I acted as if I was playing so I feel mentally I was never really out of it, just physically."
Coombs is more concerned about his fitness Saturday than taking a hit.
"Throughout the week I'm going to be focusing on my endurance because I don't want my performance to go down in the second half," he said. "If there was (concern about collarbone) I wouldn't be playing.
"The strength-and-conditioning guys do a great job of getting the guys ready. When we're on the six-game we have a routine ever day. I was doing a lot of cardio because I couldn't (lift) weights with my shoulder but once I got to the six-week mark I was able to lift heavier weights . . . it was kind of like a process."
Coombs' return is certainly timely.
Toronto can clinch first in the East with a tie or win and secure home field for the division final Nov. 19. A loss would leave the Argos second behind idle Ottawa (8-9-1) and hosting the fourth-place finisher in the West in the Eastern semifinal Nov. 12.
"Perfect timing," Coombs said. "Everybody knows what's at stake.
"This is a big game, it's probably the biggest game of the season. We're treating it as a playoff game."
B.C. has been eliminated from playoff contention but is coming off a solid 36-27 road win over Winnipeg. The Lions are 3-5 at home and have dropped their last two games at B.C. Place Stadium versus East Division teams (30-25 to Ottawa on Oct. 7, 24-23 to Hamilton on Sept. 22).
"Ottawa won (in B.C.) and Hamilton did the same a few weeks ago so it's our turn," said Toronto linebacker Bear Woods. "You want to go into the playoffs with a win.
"Who wants to go in with a loss? Nobody and we happen to be in a situation where we need to win to regain first place."
Trouble is, Toronto is 2-6 on the road and 2-7 versus West Division teams.
Toronto and Ottawa have been jockeying for first in the East the past few weeks, a situation Woods feels could benefit the Argos leading up to Saturday's contest.
"Every week now it's been get to first, fall back to second, regain first so it's that all over again and that same feeling is with us," Woods said. "Maybe that's a good thing (that's) advantageous for us because that feeling has been here (past few weeks)."
Coombs said he's never lost sleep wondering about what might've been this season had he stayed healthy.
"The way you get over something like that is accept it," he said. "It happened and it's never going to change so I just accepted it and saw what I could do to help the team moving forward.
"It's tough because you want to be there with your teammates . . . but you don't want to be moping around and making it about you. It's helping the guys who're out there, giving some advice, some tips and eventually when you do get healthy you're able to help the team on the field."