CALGARY — Stampeders running back Jon Cornish was motivated to speed up rehabilitation of the hyperextended knee he suffered in the CFL’s pre-season.
The 24-year-old from New Westminster, B.C., had Friday’s game in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions (TSN, 8:30 p.m.) circled on his calendar. It’s as close as Cornish gets to playing in his hometown.
His determination paid off. Cornish participated in full practices this week and says he’ll play Friday.
“I told them I wanted to be back for Vancouver and they said ’Jon, I’m not sure you can get back by then,”’ Cornish said Wednesday following practice. “I was pretty sure I was going to. I wanted to do the work necessary.
“The original prognosis was six to eight weeks, so me coming back at four weeks I was way ahead of where I’m supposed to be.”
Cornish is Calgary’s No. 2 running back behind Joffrey Reynolds, the CFL’s leading rusher last season. Cornish played in every game last season for Calgary, including the West final and Grey Cup.
The six-foot, 205-pounder had 254 yards on 30 carries in 2008. His first career CFL touchdown was Nov. 1 against the Lions in Calgary.
“The touchdown should have probably come a lot sooner than that point in the season,” Cornish said. “That was a big game for me playing against them and this game is an ever bigger game for me because I’m coming back and this is really my first game of the season.”
Cornish also contributed a team-leading 21 tackles on special teams in his sophomore year in the CFL. The Stamps drafted him in the second round, 13th overall, out of the University of Kansas in the 2006 Canadian college draft.
He says his accelerated return from injury was due to work put in with Stamps athletic therapist Pat Clayton.
“I’ve never had problems waking up early and I’ve been coming in at 6 a.m. every day with Patty and that’s been the biggest thing that’s helped me get to the point I am now,” Cornish explained.
Calgary and B.C. (1-2) lost their opening two games of the season before bouncing back with victories against Toronto and Edmonton respectively last week.
The Stampeders running game is unspectacular after their first three games. Calgary is tied for last in the league in rushing first downs (15) and is second-last in average rushing yards per game (71).
In Cornish’s absence, opposing defences have been able to key on Reynolds, who has just 97 yards on 24 carries so far this season.
“Going into training camp, I was really planning on using Jon a lot more than he was used last year for two reasons: he has a different running style than Joffrey and to also make sure we keep Joffrey as healthy as possible throughout the whole season,” Calgary coach John Hufnagel said.
“With the way things have worked out, every time we put another running back besides Joffrey on the roster, that player has gotten hurt, so we haven’t been able to take the pressure off of Joffrey.”