AFTER weeks of watching, and waiting and burning to pounce towards the enemy line, it's finally time for Johnny Sears to rush onto the field again.
"It feels great, man," the Bombers linebacker said after practice Tuesday, and the grin on his face spoke even louder than that. He expects to be teed up for Friday's game against the Toronto Argonauts.
"It's finally here," Sears added. "I feel real excited. It's time to get back there with my guys, man, and my guys feel pumped that I'm back, so I'm just trying to get the ball rolling."
The timing for Sears' return from off-season leg surgery couldn't have been better, what with nickelback Desia Dunn out with a bad hamstring after Saturday's loss against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Dunn will be out for at least two weeks -- but even if he wasn't down for the count, Sears never worried he'd lose his spot.
"Nah, nah," he said. "I'm a competitor. So I knew in due time I would be back on the field. It was just a matter of when."
This is, after all, the defensive back who rocked the CFL last year. Sears led the Bombers in interceptions and knocked-down passes, and wrestled down 50 defensive tackles. He is athletic and ferocious, when he's healthy -- and now that he is, he believes he can be that good again, even though he hasn't played a game since Oct. 27 in Hamilton.
"I've had a few weeks to really prepare, really run around and really loosen up," he said.
Last week, Bombers head coach Tim Burke mused the only thing stopping Sears from getting off the injured roster was the invisible part of rehab, the return of the mental readiness to run, crash and bang.
On Tuesday, Burke pointed to that as a strength, as Sears gets ready to get back in the game.
"He loves playing," Burke said. "He'll be a little bit rusty, but I think he's such a tremendous athlete, he'll make some plays just on pure athleticism."
The Bombers will need that, as they look to keep their defensive game rocking until the offence can catch up. Even while Sears sat on the sidelines, he kept pace with the defensive corps, sitting in on position meetings and making sure he knew the schemes.
"Even though I wasn't playing, I was in there helping with the guys," he said. "Making sure that when I do get in, I won't be too far behind."
Meanwhile, a devastating injury elsewhere in the roster is opening up a spot for a new face to get a chance: Linebacker Ian Wild will come up off the practice roster to replace Terrell Parker, shelved for the season with torn knee ligaments.
Not only is it Wild's first pro season, but at 23 he will be one of the youngest players on the field for either side.
After coming up to the Bombers' pre-camp tryout in April and battling to make the squad, Wild is ready to show he can handle a starting spot. "I'm pretty excited about it," said Wild, who also played lacrosse at Mercyhurst College (Pennsylvania) before being given a shot at the Buffalo Bills' mini-camp last May.
The opportunity to slide into a game came a bit sooner than Wild expected, but he said that won't change how he gets ready for Friday.
"I prepared every week like I was going to play, just so I was ready when the time came," he said, adding he's benefited from some guidance from Parker and Henoc Muamba, who happen to live in his apartment block. "It's more of a mental game than it was in college... just hanging out with them and following what they do has helped me a lot."