Day before Grey Cup game, Argos talk it out
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
|Argonauts wide receiver Jeff Johnson flips a football to teammates as the Argos held their walkthrough practice at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., Nov. 24, 2012. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - At this stage of the game, there really isn't much that needs to be said that hasn't already been said.
On the eve of Grey Cup Sunday, the Argos and Stamps aren't exactly going to reinvent themselves or go public with some outrageous comment to stir the pot.
The 100th Grey Cup does not have the backdrop of a quarterback requiring to toss a football inside a hotel ballroom to test a broken collarbone and how it responds to the medication.
There's no weather and no reason to apply staples on the bottom of shoes for traction.
The Grey Cup will be won or lost by the most basic of football's tenets, beginning with turnovers, field position and execution on both sides of the ball.
For the Argos, Saturday was a day of reflection, anticipation and some soul-searching.
It was, essentially, the penultimate day before the expected off-season changes get initiated, a reality that became clear during a players-only gathering.
As is the custom on any football team, players and coaches gather on the eve of any kickoff, a time to go through every detail.
Once the coaches had said their piece, the team's veteran core asked the players to remain, allowing an open-door forum for just about anything to be said, no player discouraged from voicing whatever opinion they may have had or harboured.
"We just opened the floor," began 13-year veteran Jeff Johnson. "It was what we did in 2004."
The year happened to be the last time the Argos played in a Grey Cup, a game Toronto would win by beating B.C. in Ottawa.
Much like 2004, the Argos enter Sunday as underdogs, playing a Calgary team that's as hot, if not hotter, based on the amount of wins over a longer period of time, than the Argos.
But like 2004, the Argos have the edge at quarterback, which is always the difference in games of this magnitude.
Kevin Glenn has waited for this exact moment for what seems like forever.
No one exudes professionalism and class better than Glenn, no one deserves to end as a champion, but Glenn does not have Ricky Ray's post-season pedigree and he simply needs an effective run game to set up the pass.
Glenn won't have to worry about Pat Watkins, whom the Argos officially placed on the injured list on Saturday, which came as no surprise to anyone.
Watkins has been battling an injured ankle for two weeks and simply can't go, replaced by rookie Jalil Carter, who will make his second consecutive start.
The Argos aren't looking past the Stamps, but plans have to be made for the inevitable parade in the event of a Toronto win.
Just as the Argos wrapped up their walkthrough at Rogers Centre, word began to leak of a Tuesday parade.
For that to happen, the Argos have to continue to ride Ray's hot hand and must continue to hold Jon Cornish, the league's rushing king, in check.
It's one thing for a team to feel good about itself and cleanse whatever issues that needed attention, but Johnson sees an intangible.
"The common theme was family and unity," he said. "In my 13 years, many of the teams had a segregated locker room, a group, whether it was an American-Canadian faction, cultural, whatever the case may be.
"You don't have that in our locker room and that's a huge difference. It translates on the field with our chemistry."
Jeff Keeping said the two veterans who asked everyone to hold back were Jordan Younger and Noel Prefontaine.
"It was an open forum for guys to get things off their chest," said Keeping. "Guys were allowed to get their emotions out, so that we can focus on the game. It just spoke to the character we have in that locker room.
"You hear words and how it means to guys and guys being part of a team that's really such a family. It was a real nice thing heading into (Sunday)."
Of course, it'll mean a hill of beans if the Argos lose.