HAMILTON — Zach Collaros no longer needs crutches on his road to recovery from season-ending knee surgery.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats‘ quarterback had his latest assessment Tuesday and said the results show he’s exactly where he should be at this point in his rehabilitation. But the most noticeable difference with Collaros is he’s walking on his own now, having ditched the crutches weeks ago.
"I feel great," Collaros told reporters at Tim Hortons Field, where he attended a news conference announcing the contract extension for Ticats head coach/GM Kent Austin. "I had the 12-week assessment and everything went well, everything is on track.
"I’m where I am supposed to be."
Collaros's brilliant 2015 campaign ended bitterly in Hamilton's 25-18 home loss in September to the Edmonton Eskimos. Collaros left the game after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Collaros and the Ticats were cruising prior to the injury. Hamilton was 8-3 and Collaros was the top candidate for the CFL's outstanding player award, leading the league in passing yards (3,376), touchdowns (25) and passer rating (113.7) with an impressive 70.2 completion percentage.
Youngsters Jeff Mathews, Jacory Harris and Jeremiah Masoli all started in Collaros's absence as Hamilton (10-8) finished second in the East. Masoli assumed starting duties in the playoffs and led Ticats past Toronto 25-22 in the East semifinal -- Masoli's first career post-season start -- then threw for 349 yards in a wild 35-28 loss to Ottawa in the division final.
Collaros said he's back in the weight room and has a full range of movement in the knee but has been unable to resume throwing yet.
"I can't really pivot, things like that," he said. "I've just been doing a lot of upper-body mechanics stuff, flat foot, sitting down and stuff like that."
Austin said he's pleased with Collaros's progress to date but again repeated the Ticats are doing their best to save Collaros from himself during his rehab.
"He's a hard worker, he cares," Austin said. "If there's a higher quality of individual than Zach I'd like to find him.
"Our issue is going to be to dial him back and make sure he doesn't push too hard because he's going to be itching to get on the field. But it's more important that we have long-term stability with him here and that we deal with his rehabilitation delicately but on schedule and don't push him too hard. It's a long season."
It's an approach Collaros said he has adopted.
"I think I've done a good job of not pushing it," he said. "It's an eight, nine-month thing. I'm not going to rush it.
"I want to be fully healthy when I get back and ready to finish the season."
Collaros said he's unsure if a return in time for the start of training camp in June is too optimistic.
"I'm not sure, it just depends," he said. "The six-month checkup, I'm sure, will be big.
"But again I've never done anything like this and my friends that have I didn't ask them for timelines ... because it will just make me go crazy so I try to have my mind focused on other things."