Veteran QBs only want to win

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Inasmuch as tonight's playoff game at the SkyDome is about the Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, it is also about Damon Allen and Danny McManus.

Allen, 41, and McManus, 39, have pushed the biological clock for professional athletes. While both want to keep playing beyond this season, time is not necessarily on their sides. This could be the last time the two are in the same game as starting quarterbacks.

"I know Damon and he knows me and we really don't care about that," McManus said yesterday. "We care about our football teams. He's trying to put points on the board and so am I. Whatever people want to say (about their careers and their futures), our main focus is to win the football game."

As Allen sees it, he and McManus are "two fierce competitors who want to get to the next game."

Through a quirk of circumstances, they have opposed each other as starters in the post-season only once before. That happened in 1994 when Allen directed the Edmonton Eskimos and McManus led the B.C. Lions. McManus suffered a knee injury and it was left up to Kent Austin, who is now the offensive co-ordinator of the Argos, to pull out the victory in relief. The Lions went on to win the Grey Cup with Austin and McManus sharing the quarterbacking duties because of injuries.

The year before, the Eskimos and the Lions met in the playoffs, but McManus did not play.

In 1996, Allen played for the Lions and McManus for the Eskimos, but when their teams met in the post-season, Allen did not play because of an injury.

In 1997, the Lions and Eskimos qualified for the post-season again, but B.C. had to cross over to the East Division and lost to the Montreal Alouettes.

So tonight, 10 years after the only time McManus and Allen guided their offences in the same playoff game, it will be historic. Allen has the Canadian Football League record for passing yards with more than 63,000, while McManus is third with slightly more than 50,000. McManus reached the mark two weeks ago when the Tiger-Cats played the Argos at the SkyDome.

When McManus eclipsed the 50,000 mark, it prompted a stoppage in play to honour the achievement. Allen joined in the ceremony in respect of McManus, a player he never has had as a teammate, which is somewhat amazing given the transient nature of the business, the constant turnover at the quarterback position and the fact the two began the season with 33 years of CFL experience.

It was only during this past off-season that they became acquainted beyond the playing field. They became golfing buddies in conjunction with participating once a week for 90 minutes in indoor-training sessions with a group of Argo, Tiger-Cat and college players.

"He was showing me how to run," the slow-footed and self-deprecating McManus said. "You can see how much he has helped me this year. It was fun (practising with him). I would always stand behind him, just picks his brains. I'd be crazy not to ask him a few questions."

Allen, in turn, would watch McManus' laser-quick delivery.

McManus had been written off last year after a disappointing season, but rookie coach Greg Marshall made him the starter and the veteran responded by throwing for more than 5,000 yards.

Allen started off this season playing effectively and showing flashes of brilliance, but it came to a sudden end in the eighth game when he suffered a cracked left tibia and missed the next seven games.

TESTAMENT

As a testament to his freakish athletic ability and/or healing powers, Allen made a quick recovery and returned for the final three regular-season games leading up to tonight's playoff matchup at the SkyDome.

It is worth the price of admission alone to see Allen and McManus in action. Their styles are remarkably different, but their passion for winning is equally the same and will continue for as long as they are allowed to continue playing.


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