Argos, Als get dirty treatment

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:41 PM ET

Big Jerome Davis lumbered his 295-pound frame over to the area where the first base bag normally rests and started lightly kicking at the clay.

So what's the big deal, he wondered?

Why were observers making such a fuss at the fact his Argos and the Montreal Alouettes will be forced to lock horns tonight on a field with the baseball cutouts intact?

It wasn't so bad.

"Hey, I played on places with broken glass and syringes scattered around," the Argos offensive tackle said. "We just have to go out and play ball."

Most players and coaches were taking a similar grin-and-bear-it attitude after Rogers Centre officials informed the Argos that the conversion from football to baseball mode was longer than initially anticipated.

Because the Jays have a home date Monday, the Argos and Als now must meet on a surface featuring patches of dirt that normally surround first, second and third bases.

Injured Argos running back Ricky Williams trotted onto the field before practice to test the field. He then told Argos coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons that the conditions were no worse than those he played on at Miami's Dolphin Stadium, which often features the dirt infield used by baseball's Marlins.

"(Rogers Centre) asked for some latitude," co-owner Howard Sokolowski said. "It's a one-time thing and we're comfortable it's safe.

"We'll live with it for one game and buy Don Matthews a beer."

Matthews, the outspoken head coach of the Alouettes, did not blow a gasket as many predicted when he saw the gridiron.

"We're going to have to practise our hook slides," Matthews said.

The Argos and Rogers Centre held discussions about altering the dirt patches, including watering down the clay. The dirt was darkened in an attempt to make it more aesthetically pleasing, but Clemons claimed the substance used to paint the clay was too abrasive.

Whatever the field conditions, the Argos will be looking to make amends for the 31-7 drubbing absorbed at the hands of the Als two weeks ago.

Damon Allen did not play in that game because of a broken finger. The Argos hope their fortunes will change tonight under the guidance of Allen, who needs just 88 passing yards to join Warren Moon as the only two men in pro football history to reach the 70,000-yard plateau.

"It blows me away what Damon is doing out there," Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo said. "I tip my hat to him."


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