His toughness has never been questioned, but his durability most certainly has.
Still, if Cory Watson has learned anything about sitting out since pulling a hamstring in Week 1 of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' season, it's this:
Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. (And, he hopes, his hamstrings stronger).
"It feels great. It feels great to be back playing football," began the Bomber receiver after working with the club's No. 1 offence at practice on Monday. "It's something I love, something I missed.
"It's hard to be on the sidelines watching your teammates go out there and battle. I mean, it's great to see them because I was a fan for the five weeks I was out, but it's a different feeling being on the sidelines. I want to be out there and be a part of everything, right?"
The last two weeks must have been especially difficult. Injured players stay at home when the team heads out on the road and, despite a player's status, it's easy to feel out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
That's even more so when Watson made like just every other Bombers fan in watching the club crank out wins in B.C. and Hamilton from the comfort of his couch.
"I become a fan in that respect," he said. "My girlfriend and daughter are here, so we sit around the TV and enjoy the show."
As solid a receiver as Watson is, his biggest challenge remains just staying in the lineup. Dating back to last season, he has now missed 12 of the team's last 21 games and hasn't played a full campaign since 2011.
Watson said he and the training staff have done everything possible to get him ready again and there will be no hesitation when he returns to the field, likely this Thursday against Saskatchewan.
"One thing you can learn (from being out) is how good it is to be back," Watson added. "It's frustrating not being able to help your teammates. You can be a cheerleader but that's not what the top players want to do. They want to be out there and playing.
"It's mixed feelings. You're a fan and you're excited for your team's success. But on the one hand you want to be out there and be a part of it. It's a balancing act. I'm excited in the direction we're going and success we've had."
Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea wouldn't confirm Watson's return to the lineup. Ditto for defensive tackle Zach Anderson and offensive lineman Pat Neufeld, both of whom were spectators at practice on Monday but might still be good to go against the Riders.
"I've got to wait and see how they feel tomorrow," O'Shea said on Monday. "We'll see how they feel when they wake up."
Rookie Matthias Goossen took turns at guard in Neufeld's place on Monday with the club's starting O-line.
"It's like coach O'Shea said at the start of the season," said Goossen. "Everybody who dresses should get ready to be a starter. Two times in the six games it's happened, so I've just got to get ready to go in and play... left guard, centre, right guard. Every week I prepare like a starter and if I get it, I get it. When it comes down to it, as long as we get that 'W', that's all that matters."
BLUE NOTES: Receiver Donavon Kemp injured his knee near the end of practice and had to be helped off the field. The extent of his injury won't be known until the medical staff can evaluate him... OL Quinn Everett, the club's sixth-round draft pick in 2014, has returned to Mount Allison University.
The Riders have been advised that receiver Taj Smith has been charged with violating a condition of release stemming from an incident last August and he will not play Thursday's game against the Bombers
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