Dunigan loves going Grey

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, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

Some guys need to be locked away. For their own good.

That's what one ex-player once told me about prepping for the Grey Cup game.

Some guys, he said, it didn't matter. Some guys were just bulletproof.

That was back in the day before personal training programs and nutritionists. It was the days when they were just beginning to calculate things like percentage of body fat. Or blood-alcohol content.

Then there's the mental factor: Creating a protective shell from media and public.

That part didn't faze Matt Dunigan.

"I didn't care," said the ex-quarterback who prepared himself for the game - count 'em - five times. There were other things to worry about than what they were saying."

You mean, some players hold grudges?!

"Everybody! They're emotionally attached and they can't remove themselves from what they're feeling and what our jobs are."

It has been several years now, of course, since Dunigan flipped positions, becoming one of the "what they said" guys himself as a high-profile CFL analyst on TSN.

Getting prepped for the big game, he said, is a matter of situation.

"It's all how it's handled. It seems like both teams are very focused this year," Dunigan said about the opponents in the 96th Grey Cup, the Calgary Stampeders and hometown Montreal Alouettes.

"The Alouettes, they chose to move into a hotel midweek to stay away from distractions, (but) they didn't seem to have any ill effects playing at the Big O last week," he said of the Als dispatching the Edmonton Eskimos in the Eastern final. (Eastern, this season, meaning east of the Rockies.)

"I don't think it's going to affect either team. You've got two disciplined teams - on and off the field - as demanded by both coaches, John Hufnagel and Marc Trestman."

Dunigan and his cohorts have had a seemingly sweet gig in recent seasons as TSN took over the bulk of the regular-season games, while CBC maintained the playoff rights. Just show up for the parties, right?

But Dunigan still carries a "put me in coach" mentality. He'd rather be working the sidelines with a mic in hand, than simply standing on the sidelines shaking hands.

He played in five Grey Cup games, winning two. But a sixth one still grinds.

In '93, I'm standing on the sidelines with a blown Achilles. That was a tough one to swallow," he said about watching his Winnipeg Blue Bombers lose 33-23 to the Eskimos.

Truth is, going to the Cup "off duty," you're still a recognizable face with family and professional responsibilities. So you can't just be givin' her, eh, as the rest of us are free - even expected - to do during Grey Cup shenanigans.

"We are required to go to a bunch of events, and we like to get out there as much as possible, but our workload is so heavy we have to take it seriously."

Dunigan has been doing on-air hits, filing for TSN.ca, maybe even whipping up something involving Montreal smoked meat for his cooking show on the Food Network.

Is he ready for the kickoff?

"People here (at TSN) have been preparing for this for a long time. The execs, our producers, our directors, we've been hoping for this for a long, long time. And to live up to the expectations that CBC put out there (covering the game for so many years). It's the biggest social event, the biggest sporting event Canada has to offer. We want to be able to not miss a beat.

"It's a long week. But it's the nature of the beast."


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