Almost a year after his rookie season was cut short by a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Carl Volny finally feels ready to pick up where he left off.
"I've got to get playing . . . I've got to get the feeling back, it's all mental," he said Tuesday, a day after coach Tim Burke said Volny would be returning to the lineup.
"You need confidence in your knee and your body to go out to play . . . If you're not [confident], you'll never have that determination to be playing football again."
He'll be putting his knee and his confidence to the test Friday, when the CFL's last-place Bombers (2-8) face the Stampeders (6-4) in Calgary.
Volny, 24, was born in Montreal and lived there about six years before moving to Florida. He played in the NCAA for Central Michigan.
He gave the NFL a shot but couldn't land a spot, opting finally to try his luck in the 2011 CFL draft.
He was taken 32nd overall by the Bombers, looked promising in camp and landed a spot as Winnipeg's backup tailback, but his debut ended abruptly.
He was hurt in Sept. 24 game against Toronto after he replaced injured veteran starter Fred Reid, who also suffered a torn ACL.
Head coach Tim Burke said the return of Volny and his non-import status allows them to multiply their options on offence.
"We're going to use him obviously on special teams but also as a fullback and a tailback on offence," he said.
"He's going to allow us to do some things offensively that I think will maybe put a little more pressure on the defence than what we've had."
Chad Simpson remains Winnipeg's starting tailback and Burke also wants to see him get the ball a little more than he has up until now. But Volny's status is a bonus that increases flexibility, besides inserting a better pass receiver into the backfield.
"He's very intelligent. He's a good pass blocker that allows us, if we bring him in for Chad in a passing situation . . . to get another American receiver on the field," Burke said.
The 2011 Bombers struggled near the end of the season but still made it to the Grey Cup, losing to the Lions in Vancouver.
This season their offence is the most unproductive in the CFL and continues to sputter under Joey Elliott, the third quarterback to take the reins.
He'll start again Friday, although Buck Pierce has recovered from his Week 3 foot injury and will take over when Hamilton visits Winnipeg Sept. 21.
"Buck's our guy," Burke said emphatically Tuesday, when asked if Elliott's performance would make any difference in that decision.
Burke had already dismissed as ridiculous any speculation the club was ready to drop Pierce for a younger quarterback. Pierce is 31 and this is his eighth season in the CFL.
Pierce, meanwhile, admitted he would like to start playing immediately but said the decisions is out of his hands.
"As a player, it's really not up to you," he said.
"I'm ready to play. That's my job. I've been waiting to get the nod for a while now."
Despite Sunday's last-second 25-24 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, two Bombers won CFL honours this week for their roles in that game.
Defensive end Jason Vega was named defensive player of the week for his career high six tackles and three sacks and kick returner Demond Washington was named the special teams player of the week.
Washington had 114 yards on four punt returns and 31 yards on two kick returns and returned one Chris Milo punt 82 yards for a touchdown. It was Winnipeg's only touchdown of the game.
"Getting the award's nice, but we wanted the win," Washington said.
"It's nice to be recognized by the CFL but ultimately we lost, so it doesn't really matter," echoed Vega.