Avon Cobourne harbours no beef with the Montreal Alouettes.
The colourful, sometimes outspoken tailback spent five seasons in Montreal, helping the club win two straight Grey Cup titles. But he left the Alouettes in the off-season to sign a multi-year deal as a free agent with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Cobourne will face his former team for the first time Friday when the Ticats (2-2) host the Alouettes (3-1) at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
“It’s just another game,” Cobourne said Thursday. “Don’t get me wrong, I want to win but I don’t know what the feeling is when you play your former team.
“I don’t have that feeling of hate or anger or I want to beat them because of this or that. I just feel like it’s just another game and I want to go out and play my best and help my team try to win it.”
Cobourne, 32, began his CFL career as a linebacker with Montreal but became the club’s starting running back in 2008. He registered 1,557 all-purpose yards that season and was an East Division all-star before earning CFL honours in 2009 with 1,214 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Cobourne capped that season off nicely as the MVP of the Als’ 28-27 Grey Cup win over Saskatchewan.
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The five-foot-eight, 200-pound Cobourne ran for 956 yards in 2010, averaging 5.2 yards a carry. And once again he finished his season celebrating a Grey Cup title following Montreal’s 21-18 victory over Saskatchewan.
“It was just business,” Cobourne said of his departure from Montreal. “I’m not taking it personal at all because I feel I won in the whole deal.”
Hamilton signed Cobourne to not only strengthen its run game but more importantly give the club more of a swagger. The Ticats have finished second in the East Division behind Montreal the last two years and figured adding players like Cobourne who’ve experienced success and know what it takes to win will help catapult the club to is first Grey Cup appearance since winning it in ’99.
After dropping their first two games of the season, Hamilton is back at .500. Cobourne ran for 100 yards on 14 carries and scored his first two TDs with the Ticats in their 39-31 road win over the B.C. Lions last weekend. It was Cobourne’s 13th career 100-yard rushing performance.
Cobourne has anchored Hamilton’s run game this season, standing third in the CFL with 264 yards. He’s averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has added 11 catches for 83 yards.
Montreal is coming off a 27-24 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, a game that saw veteran quarterback Anthony Calvillo leave with blurred vision after being hit. But Calvillo will return under centre Friday night.
Offensive lineman Josh Bourke (knee) and receiver Kerry Watkins will also be in Montreal’s lineup. Watkins will be making his season debut after recovering from sinus surgery to remove his adenoids.
A factor in Montreal’s favour is the visiting team has won 10 of the first 16 games to start the CFL season, a 62.5 per cent winning clip. Last year, the road teams won just 42 per cent of the time (30-of-72 games).
Cobourne isn’t a complete picture of health, either. He’s sporting a nasty turf burn on his knee that he says is painful but not enough to force him to the sidelines.
“No, not at all,” he said.
While Cobourne harbours no resentment towards his former team, Friday’s game will undoubtedly feature no shortage of on-field chatter. Cobourne is an emotional player who’s not afraid to speak his mind during a game and Montreal cornerback Dwight Anderson is among the CFL’s best when it comes to trash-talking.
“Oh yeah, we’re definitely going to talk,” Cobourne said. “That makes you play better, at least it does for me.
“When I’m talking, I play better than if I was sitting there and bored. They’re going to play harder so in turn that’s going to make me play harder.”