Dog days catch up to Armstead

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

The Renegades were serious underdogs in the CFL playoff race before Jason Armstead returned from the bye week to spend yesterday's practice on the sidelines with his six-week old Rottweiler.

Without their best deep threat, they'd be buried like a bone.

Alas, Armstead vows to be back on the field this afternoon and in uniform against the 'Cats of Hamilton Friday, the first of three-must-wins-and-a-prayer for his team. His absence from Day 1's preparations was due to a nagging "turf toe" and his reluctance to become "dependent" on pain killers, he explained.

"I'll take one (today) and be back out there bouncing around again," said Armstead. "I just needed one extra day."

Coach Joe Paopao didn't need any arm twisting.

"He's been one of our most productive guys," Paopao said. "Sometimes you have to cut those guys a little slack. Hey, rest up. We're playing the same team we played last time. (Missing one day) is really not an issue."

His last day in a hard hat, Armstead caught six balls for 75 yards in a slump-busting 43-21 victory over the Ticats. He's got 73 catches for 1,026 yards, 65 yards from breaking Yo Murphy's team record for receiving yards in a season.

"I'm a team guy, man. I like to win," he said. "To look at myself, that's not fair to my teammates. Right now, all I can say is it feels good to reach 1,000 yards, but I still have a lot of unfinished business."

Armstead says winning the final three games is a "realistic goal." Even that wouldn't necessarily secure Ottawa a playoff spot if Toronto and Montreal each win at least one of their remaining three, Saskatchewan takes 2-of-2 and Calgary wins 2-of-3. Finishing on top in just two of their final three would leave the Renegades in prayer mode, as both the Stamps and Roughriders would both need just one victory to enter the post-season -- one of them via the crossover format to bump Ottawa.

"We've got to focus on this one, as opposed to the three games," said Paopao. "We have to get this one and it's not going to be easy. If we don't get it done, then those other ones aren't going to matter."

And so the 'Dogs have to get after the 'Cats, much the same way Armstead's "Deuce" would chase a kitten.

"He's another member of my family," Armstead said of the Ottawa-born "Rott" he's had for three weeks. "It's a family dog. I just want him to protect me, protect my girls. I was sitting here in Canada, lonely, and needed another friend, So I grabbed me a dog. Man's best friend."

And a fitting mascot for the Renegades in the final weeks of their 2005 season.


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