Sports

Veteran Kackert patiently waiting for chance to play on Argos practice roster

TORONTO — Circumstance has helped provide Chad Kackert with perspective and patience.

The veteran running back has spent the 2016 season on Toronto's practice roster diligently preparing for another opportunity to play. But the five-foot-eight, 206-pound Kackert has become well versed in the art of being patient as an assortment of injuries have limited him to just 31 regular-season appearances since joining the Argonauts in 2011.

"Perspective is a powerful thing and I've had the blessing of getting that, whether I wanted it or not," said the well-spoken Kackert. "You'll see guys complain about not getting playing time or their paycheques and it's like, 'Come on, we're playing football. If you've got something better to do, go do it. This is a gift.'

"As long as someone is willing to pay you to be on the field, I mean, that's more than anyone could ask for."

Kackert has often been a big-play producer for Toronto when on the field. He sports a solid 6.3-yard average per carry over his six CFL seasons and in 2012 was the MVP of the Argos' 35-22 win over Calgary in the 100th Grey Cup game at Rogers Centre. He had 133 yards rushing on 20 carries and eight catches for 62 yards in that contest.

Trouble is, the 30-year-old California native has been plagued by injuries, including a horrific ankle/leg ailment prior to the '13 East final that forced him to retire briefly and become the team's strength coach. Kackert joined the Argos' practice roster midway through the year but was relegated back to being the strength coach after suffering a hamstring injury.

Kackert re-signed with Toronto as a free agent in 2015 and played seven games, starting one. He ran for 235 yards on 39 carries (6.03-yard average) and added 10 catches for 76 yards.

Toronto released Kackert in June then put him back on the practice roster. But playing time has been non-existent as starter Brandon Whitaker hasn't missed a game and is the CFL's second-leading rusher with 855 yards (5.5-yard average per carry).

"I think it's one of those things where you're glad you don't have concussions and broken bones but when you get out there you realize how much fun it is," Kackert said. "But I'm used to not playing, I mean, this is my sixth year and I've played 31 games in total.

"It's observable that Whit is having a hell of a season and if we're dressing one back, yeah, I get that. As far as being a pro, my job is to show up and do what the coaches ask me to do. If that's playing in a game, that's great. If it's being on the scout punt return, I'll do that to."

Life on a CFL practice roster isn't lucrative. Players make a minimum of $750 per week but their housing is covered by the team. Kackert is currently living in a hotel with Trek, his chocolate lab and trusted sidekick.

"Am I smarter with my money? Well, I just bought a GoPro," Kackert said with a chuckle. "Really, for me, money comes down to driving and eating.

"They're paying for me to be in a hotel, which is great because I have my dog up here. The wonderful staff cleans my sheets and vacuums the hair off the floor and replaces our towels. People are like, 'Man, it must be bad living in a hotel,' and I say, 'No, it's fine,' so no complaints there. Again, it's just the perspective of things."

Kackert believes he still has plenty of football left in him.

"I'd like to say my career isn't over," he said. "I'm in better shape now than I was last year and I played all right last year.

"I had my faults but that's to come with being out of the game for two years because of an injury. I'd say I feel younger now than I did last year. I hope I am not cornered by that observation of who I was last year."

Kackert intends to continue playing football as long as he feels he has the ability to do so at a high level.

"I've dealt with losing the game before but, of course, I had the intention of coming back," he said. "If I am not wanted anywhere, then the decision is made for me.

"But as long as I have the ability to play, I probably will make an attempt to even if that means paying to go to tryouts. I still have the ability to play the game. It's been a while but if an opportunity isn't given, you can make an opportunity."

In the meantime, Kackert is willing to remain patient.

"The game is a lot of things," he said. "It's not just being on the field. It's the guys in the locker-room.

"I miss it (playing in games) here and there but I'll keep waiting."