Argos' Owens, Stamps' Cornish deserve recognition

Calgary Stampeders' Jon Cornish speaks with reporters during Wednesday's West Division champions...

Calgary Stampeders' Jon Cornish speaks with reporters during Wednesday's West Division champions media lunch ahead of the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto on Sunday. (REUTERS)

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:11 PM ET

They aren’t on the field at the same time anymore, but Chad Owens and Jon Cornish met once in an epic crash.

In the 2011 season-opener, back when Cornish still played the majority of coverage teams, the Calgary Stampeders running back drilled the Toronto Argonauts Mr. Everything.

The hit left Owens dazed, and he was forced to the leave the game, which the Argos eventually won.

Their names are linked once again, but on Thursday night, it could be Owens knocking out the double award nominee off the most outstanding player perch.

Owens led the CFL in receiving this season, while Cornish was the top rusher. But the reason Owens is nominated as the East Division’s MOP is due in most part to his special teams play.

Cornish doesn’t do it anymore, thanks to his elevation as the starting tailback. When he did run down on cover teams, there was hardly anyone better though.

“I’ve laid some licks on Chad Owens,” Cornish said with a puff of pride. “I love playing against him.

“I like the opportunity of not going out there now. Special teams is much harder than running the ball. I have to give credit to the guys who do special teams. It’s hard. You are running 40 yards down, blocking somebody or avoiding blocks and trying to make tackles.

“Most of my work is running 10 yards. That’s a nice play. I get up and rest. It’s not the same amount of exertion on a single play. I do sorta miss it though. I loved playing against great returners in this league.”

Cornish has two chances to pick up hardware Thursday because he’s also nominated as the West Division’s top Canadian.

The voting, which was done before the playoffs started, could go either way. Cornish may have led the league in rushing, setting a record for Canadians, but Owens surpassed a league mark that is just as impressive.

With 3,863 all-purpose yards, Owens topped the previous record held by the legendary Pinball Clemons and he led the CFL in both receiving and kickoff return yards, which was a first. Cornish only plays on offence, so Owens could get more love for all that he does for the Argos.

“I probably touch the ball more than anyone else in the league,” said Owens, who went over the 3,000-yard mark for the third straight season, also a record.

“That’s more times that I get hit. Just because I get the ball more doesn’t mean I have an advantage.

“As a player, you want the most touches as you can get. It can go against you as well. The more touches you get, the more potential fumbles, the more hits you get, the more chances you get to get hurt.

“That’s why I feel fortunate and blessed, just as Jon probably does, that we’re able to make it through a full season. We’re both having the opportunity to play in the Grey Cup.”

Actually, Cornish touched the ball more this season, getting it in his hands 297 times to Owens’ 252, while Owens had eight lost fumbles to Cornish’s three.

Regardless of who wins, both players are deserving. Neither team would be in the Grey Cup without their MOP nominees as both players raised their games in the post-season.

For Owens, getting recognized would be a team honour, and one that would validate his decision to stick with the CFL when he had offers to go south.

“It would mean a lot,” Owens said. “Things would have come full circle. My family and I have been through a lot. It’s been ups and downs. A rollercoaster ride.

“It would mean so much. As a team we’ve come so far. We’ve worked. This is my third year as an Argo and this organization has been through a lot.”

Owens remembers the hit he took from Cornish that knocked him from that game. He doesn’t hold a grudge, or else he would have a lot of enemies in the CFL from all the shots he’s taken.

“It’s part of the game,” Owens said. “I’m not looking at it like anything. He was playing hard and I was playing hard.”

ANKLE ‘NOT AN ISSUE: SIMPSON

There were no prying eyes there to witness Calgary Stampeders practice on Wednesday afternoon.

So we will just have to trust what Juwan Simpson says about his injured ankle.

The Stampeders starting middle linebacker planned on going 100% despite missing Sunday’s West final in Vancouver, giving way to rookie Deron Mayo.

With a couple of days off to travel to the 100th Grey Cup, Simpson said he would be fine for the practice that was closed off to the public Wednesday so that the Stamps could get some work done in privacy.

“I feel good,” Simpson said. “I’m healthy, so it’s not an issue of the (coaches) keeping me off the field.”

The trick this week will be to stay healthy. Simpson first suffered the ankle injury back on Oct. 6 in Vancouver, and he played through it during the final month of the regular season.

In the West semifinal, he tweaked it a bit, and it didn’t respond when he tested it the day before the West final victory over the B.C. Lions.

Mayo performed well in Simpson’s spot, but there is no doubt the defensive captain brings an emotional energy to the team that can’t be duplicated.

Back in 2008, Simpson was on the roster for the Grey Cup victory over the Montreal Alouettes, but he was a reserve player, mostly seeing duty on special teams.

In this year’s Grey Cup, it’s a chance for him to be a starter in the big game.

All week he will be treading a fine line to show the coaching staff enough to give them confidence in him but also to not reinjure the joint.

“That’s the key any week, but it’s especially important this week,” the Alabama product said. “I’m going out there to practice.

“I’m not cutting anything short. There are one or two opportunities to see where I’m at. If I don’t take them, I won’t get a good mindset as to where I am.

“Things completely change when I’m out there on the field. I feel great.

“I haven’t been on the field in a while. It will be good to get back out there.”

 


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