Way too early to dwell on expectations

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

Expectations being what they are, many of the 21,469 curious fans who came to see Ricky Williams in an Argos uniform last night probably went away just a little let down.

That's natural enough. Everybody has been hyping the impact of Williams, one of the NFL's top running backs, on the Argos and the CFL, ever since he signed last Sunday.

Last night, the only impact the Miami Dolphins refugee made was on the size of the audience in a 31-3 Hamilton Tiger-Cats win. Four years ago, this might have been the biggest crowd of the entire Toronto season. Imagine that, for an exhibition game.

After four days of practice, hardly a fair initiation into a dramatically different version of the game he has loved since he was a kid, Williams played one quarter in his first CFL game. In one aspect, he fit right in with his new teammates: He, and they, did absolutely nothing.

"The biggest thing was to see the game, see the speed of the game, see how the players play and just to get a feel," Williams said. "It's hard to do in a meeting room or even on the practice field. When you come out here in game speed, you get a better idea."

The Tiger-Cats, on the other hand, obviously are interested in establishing a new trend in this ages-old blood feud. In the previous 18 Toronto-Hamilton games, including pre-season, regular season and playoffs, Toronto had lost only once.

Hamilton clearly appeared further advanced last night. On offence, the Ticats rolled up more than three times as many yards as the Argos.

"This game was what it is: It's information," Argos head coach Michael Clemons said. "It lets you know where you are -- 10% of life is what happens to you and the other 90% is how you deal with it.

"It's a decent barometer for us. It's not an honest barometer. I won't get overly excited about the outcome of this game."

Now, you have to be aware that there is nothing quite so unsatisfying as exhibition football, especially the first game of the year when there are about 70 players still occupying uniforms on each team.

In fact, the closest thing to a "moment" occurred when they played a voice clip from Joe Theismann on the JumboTron extracted from his attack on the Argos and on Williams earlier this week.

"I'm embarrassed to have worn that 'A' on my helmet," said Theismann, who played with the Argos in the early 1970s and now is a color analyst for NFL games with ESPN.

After they played the clip, a picture of Theismann in an Argos helmet appeared and so did a hand with an eraser in it. To great applause from the crowd, the eraser wiped away the 'A' on Theismann's helmet.

Toronto has always been a pass-first team which might run the ball a dozen times a game, especially since it has been blessed with Hall of Fame quarterbacks such as Damon Allen and Doug Flutie. Clemons has said they may change their offensive philosophy somewhat to take advantage of Williams' obvious talents.

"I think the offence will grow," he said, "grow into him, and he will grow into it."

Last night, Williams touched the ball four times for seven yards. But Clemons felt there might be some value in the fact that he was held in check.

"I think it was good that he didn't do anything spectacular because it's going to let him know that if he is going to be successful in this league, he is going to have to work maybe the hardest he has ever worked," Clemons said.

ACUTELY AWARE

Remember also that every defence Toronto faces, including Hamilton's, will be acutely aware of Williams and who he is. While most every player in the CFL respects him for his talent and accomplishments, every one of them will be gunning to be the one to knock him into next week.

The Argonauts offensive philosophy, no doubt, will start coming into sharper focus over the next week or so as they move some extra bodies out of camp. Williams will be a big part of that offensive strategy, but even he might have some difficulty living up to the inflated expectations.


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