HAMILTON — The Hamilton Tiger-Cats still remain hopeful about quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell's return.
Mitchell, 33, suffered a lower-leg fracture in Hamilton's 16-12 home win over Ottawa on July 28. He had surgery and went on the six-game injured list with the expectation he could return to the team later in the season.
On Thursday, while the Ticats practised at Tim Hortons Field, Mitchell threw in the opposite end zone and did resistance training without a limp or any noticeable effects.
Orlondo Steinauer, Hamilton's head coach/president of football operations, said there remains no timetable regarding when Mitchell might return. But Steinauer remains optimistic the two-time CFL MVP will suit up before season's end.
"I'm not going to bet against somebody who's a proven quarterback in the league and who's working his tail off to get back," Steinauer said. "I'm optimistic he'll be on the field at some point."
Rookie Taylor Powell will make an eighth start when Hamilton (6-7) visits the Toronto Argonauts (11-1) on Saturday night. The Ticats return to Tim Hortons Field next week to host the Calgary Stampeders, the team Mitchell played for (2012-22) before it dealt his rights to the East Division squad last November.
Mitchell signed a three-year deal with Hamilton after his rights were traded.
"We're not going to push it," Steinauer said of Mitchell's rehab. "We know Bo is working hard and sometimes you want to rush it but you have good and bad days in rehab, meaning not when you do it but how it responds.
"No timetable, just want him to be 99.9 per cent healthy, both between the ears and physically, then we'll make a choice."
Mitchell's first season in Hamilton has been a difficult one. Injuries have limited him to just three games with the Ticats, completing 56-of-97 passes (57.7 per cent) for 714 yards with three touchdowns and nine interceptions.
During his time in Calgary, Mitchell led the Stampeders to two Grey Cup titles (2014, 2018), earning game MVP honours each time. He's been a CFL all-star twice and has amassed a 90-25-2 regular-season record as a league starter.
The Ticats, under Powell, have crept back into playoff contention in the East Division, having won two straight and three-of-four games overall. They enter this week's action tied with Montreal for second in the conference.
Montreal has won the season series and holds the tiebreaker should the two teams finish up with identical point totals. But they've still got one more head-to-head contest on Oct. 28 at Molson Stadium.
In his last four starts, Powell has completed 89-of-123 passes (72.4 per cent) for 1,080 yards with eight TDs and two interceptions. The 24-year-old American was 20-of-26 for 236 yards with a TD and interception in Hamilton's surprising 29-23 home win over Winnipeg last week.
Powell also finished 18-of-22 passing for 222 yards and a TD in Hamilton's 30-13 road win over the B.C. Lions on Aug. 26.
On the year, the former Eastern Michigan star has compiled a 3-4 record, which includes two losses to Toronto. Powell has completed 158-of-225 passes (70.2 per cent) for 1,829 yards with nine TDs and five interceptions while rushing 25 times for 165 yards (6.6-yard average) and a TD.
Veteran Matt Shiltz has served as a backup in Hamilton's last two games following a stint on the six-game injured list.
Powell has also had the benefit of time to work with veteran CFL head coach Scott Milanovich. In August, the Ticats let offensive co-ordinator Tommy Condell go and promoted Milanovich, who had been a senior assistant with Hamilton, to its offensive playcaller.
Hamilton has won three-of-five games since.
"I just try to get better each day and try to find something to improve upon," Powell said. "Whether it's knowing my hots, knowing how to move in the pocket, just learning things from Matt and Bo.
"Just become more comfortable with Scott and the offence."
Steinauer also feels experience has served Powell well.
"I think you always gain a little bit from experience, just being around one another and understanding what everybody brings to the table," Steinauer said. "Every game he plays, he's garnering just a little bit more experience.
"I think he's more confident, I think he's more confident reading coverages, the expectations of each individual player. The continuity has really helped."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2023.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press