Western war of words has started already
By HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency
|The Stamps' Nik Lewis is already taking a bit of trash ahead of the Western final. (Lyle Aspinall/QMI Agency)
It didn't take long for the banter to begin.
Soon after the Calgary Stampeders' thrilling victory Sunday over the Saskatchewan Roughriders -- propelling the red-hot red-and-whites into the Western final this week against the league-best B.C. Lions -- Stamps receiver Nik Lewis had a few choice words for his upcoming opponents. The outspoken veteran told the Calgary Herald that the Lions "don't want to see us" and "were probably sittin' around singing Kumbaya when Sask scored there at the end of the game, thinking it was over."
The article was printed and placed in the stall of each Lions player Monday as they returned to practice, finally with a clear picture who they will face Sunday at BC Place. But while the "taunts" from Lewis could be viewed as added motivation, all the Leos cared to do was laugh it off.
"That's Nik," B.C. linebacker Anton McKenzie said. "It doesn't affect me anymore. You expect that from Nik Lewis, he wants to fire himself up and the team up. That's what he's known to do. I come out there and I play hard against whoever it is so it doesn't matter."
Added slotback Geroy Simon: "Everyone knows what Nik Lewis is, he talks trash, he runs his mouth. But in the end, they still got to come here and play."
Even defensive back Korey Banks, who was voted the third best trash talker in TSN's player poll this season, was dismissive of Lewis, unwilling to counter with any bulletin board material for Calgary.
"I don't even look into it," Banks said. "He called out a lot of people. We'll see. Nothing to say.
"Come see me this time next week and we'll see who's happy and who's not."
With the amusing back-and-forth aside, the Lions got back to business Monday, starting with player-led film sessions at the team's Surrey practice facility. They will then shift training to the downtown stadium for the rest of the week.
Having rested up thanks to the bye week, the Lions are approaching the Western final as the start to a brand new season.
"What we did during the regular season doesn't matter. It's do-or-die and we have to perform at the highest level to find a way to get that victory," head coach Mike Benevides said. "A lot of times you make more of it than you have to. It's one of those games where you just go out there and fly around, have fun and find a way to win."
To do so, B.C. will need to halt the streaking Stampeders, a team that has won 10 of its past 12 games and is coming off a tremendous high from the Western semifinals after pulling out a victory in the final minute. Their recent performances even has Benevides declaring that it almost puts his club "in an underdog situation."
That's one way to look at it.
Then again, the matchup against a hot Calgary side doesn't seem to faze Angus Reid one bit.
"They've been playing in the cold so I don't really know how hot they really could be," the veteran centre deadpanned. "I don't think anyone is going to sit here and say they're more talented than we are. When it comes right down to it, if we both play our best game, we're a better team."
It was all smiles for slotback Arland Bruce Monday as he walked into the locker room.
Having sat out the past five games with a concussion, the second-year Leo is expected to be in the lineup for the team's first playoff game.
"I've been ready for about two weeks now," Bruce said. "I'm looking forward to getting back onto the field with my troops."
Asked if he's got any kind of rust after missing all that time, Bruce quipped, "I got WD-40, so I'm good."
Offensive lineman Dean Valli, meanwhile, said he's not 100% recovered from a knee injury he suffered in the season finale against the Riders but was confident he'll suit up this weekend.