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CB Watkins returns to Grey Cup-champion Argos secondary

The Canadian Press

6/19/2013 2:24:13 PM

TORONTO -- Pat Watkins is back with the Toronto Argonauts.

The all-star cornerback rejoined the defending Grey Cup champions Wednesday and was with his teammates for the first time since the start of training camp. The six-foot-five, 205-pound defensive back needed the time away to take care of unspecified personal matters in Florida.

"The main thing is I'm here," Watkins told reporters at Varsity Stadium. "Everybody welcomed me back with open arms and that's a really great feeling.

"I'm really relieved that I'm here."

In fact, Watkins said his teammates greeted him with a standing ovation upon his arrival.

"It felt good," he said. "There's still a lot of charisma on the team, a lot of people who make you laugh. The greatest thing about it, you can go away from your home and still feel like you're at home."

Toronto will play its final exhibition game Thursday night against the Montreal Alouettes at Varsity Stadium but Watkins isn't expected to suit up.

Watkins, 30, had 67 tackles and five interceptions with Toronto last season, his first in the CFL. However, the Florida native didn't participate in Toronto's 35-22 Grey Cup win over Calgary due to injury.

Watkins signed as a free agent with the Argos in May 2012 after spending time in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers.

He said physically he's fine as he was able to continue working out in Florida.

"Look, I'm in great shape," he said. "The timing was just off.

"If this had happened a few months back as far as everything going on I could've made it here. As I said the great thing is I'm here and I've got the whole season to look forward to."

Toronto can certainly use Watkins as sophomore Jahlil Carter is the lone holdover in the Argos secondary. Cornerback Pacino Horne was released Monday while defensive back Evan McCollough signed as a free agent with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and veteran safety Jordan Younger has retired.

Watkins certainly has some ground to make up considering the Argos opened training camp June 2. But the former Florida State star is fine with it if he has to reclaim his starting position to be on the field in time for Toronto's season opener versus arch-rival Hamilton on June 28 at Rogers Centre.

"I've never been afraid of work," he said. "That's fine with me."