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Usually, it happens during the spring. After sleeping for most of the winter, bears usually resurface after about 100 days of napping.
In Toronto, a Bear is re-emerging after a longer respite than three months, and is anxious to show just how awake he is.
Linebacker Bear Woods will return to the lineup on Saturday afternoon when the Argonauts travel to Ottawa to face the Redblacks (1:00, TSN, TSN 1050).
“It feels great,” Woods told Argonauts.ca about the lineup change. “Any day in pro ball is a good day, being able to put the helmet on. I’m excited like a little kid.”
The last time Woods suited up for a game was September 22, 2018 against Saskatchewan. He had only played three full games after missing the beginning of last season with an unrelated injury, and in that trio of games had nine tackles in each one.
Woods is 32-years old, but with the way he plays the game, physically and with one-hundred percent effort on every play, there are a lot of city kilometres on that chassis. That, and the addition of players like Ian Wild and Micah Awe, as well as the development of Justin Herdman-Reed, meant the Argos were ready to move on from Woods. A tough decision to be sure, but one they felt they had to make.
That mindset changed, and on July 29 the popular native of Macclenny, Florida (population 6,518) was re-signed. The man who had 90 tackles for the Argos in 2017, and 126 for Montreal the season before, had been eagerly waiting for the chance to return. An injury to Awe on Labour Day opened the door for that to happen.
“I knew my opportunity would come, just knowing the game, whether it was injury or not, it would come at some point,” explained Woods through his thick southern drawl. “I’m excited about it, but I hate it for Micah.”
While no one is happy about the way Woods is getting back into the lineup – an injury to a talented, popular teammate – head coach Corey Chamblin knows what he’s getting from man with the easily identifiable ginger dreadlocks.
“Bear has experience with this team,” said the coach. “He has experience with this defence. He has that veteran leadership and we’re excited to have him back. He brings energy and a high level of execution.”
The energy and enthusiasm are apparent. He’s vocal. He’s hands on in terms of leadership. If you’ve seen him on the sidelines during games, he’s constantly encouraging and talking to teammates. He’s also vocal during meetings.
He became extremely animated during a recent special teams meeting. His voice rang through the adjoining lunch room. It was so loud that players and staff looked up from their meals trying to figure out what was going on. They realized it was just Bear being Bear and went back to eating their lunch.
“That’s just who I am,” explained Woods. “And I want to win. I know what I bring, and one of the things I bring is communication, that’s the biggest thing. I know I bring that.”
As does Chamblin.
“It’s awesome,” the coach told Argonauts.ca. “No matter what his role has been, he’s still stepped up to have that voice of leadership. I think that’s a true leader, that you’re able to lead regardless of where you are.”
Until he got the call from the Argos in July, Woods bided his time with his wife and cubs in their home base of Wetumpka, Alabama (population 8,148), his wife’s home state, and the state where he played his college ball, just down the road at Troy University.
He kept working out, waiting for that call to happen. It did, and Woods happily answered it. When #48 runs onto the field in Ottawa and makes his first tackle he’ll be easy to find, because as he says, he’ll be “excited like a little kid.”