Neither team wanted Allen

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Damon Allen doesn't care much to revisit the past. "Old news," the Argos' old quarterback said yesterday. "Where were you two years ago?"

But old news is about to become big news again. Welcome to Grey Cup week where Allen can run from a chasing lineman, just not from the nasty goodbye party the B.C. Lions threw him two seasons back.

He will be reminded of this daily, asked how it feels to play against a team that didn't want him anymore, asked to tell the story one more time.

Of how the Lions signed him, lied to him, told the world how "very pleased" they were to have him, and before he ever took a snap for Wally Buono they discarded him as though he was yesterday's news.

"Did I feel it was handled properly?" Allen repeats the question out loud. "I don't have nothing to say about that anymore."

The strange truth of this quarterbacking drama as the Argos prepare to play B.C. on Sunday is that neither team really wanted Allen. Both had their eyes on Dave Dickenson.

"We went after Dickenson," said Adam Rita, now the Argos general manager. "But our ownership at the time (Sherwood Schwarz) couldn't do it. We couldn't afford it."

Allen, who has won Grey Cups in three different decades and who has never lost a Grey Cup game, turned out to play the part of consolation prize when the Argos were out of everything including money.

"I love this team, this city, and most of all the fans," Allen said on the February day in 2003 when Wally Buono signed him to a two-year contract extension in Vancouver. Two months later, the Lions signed Dickenson. And two murky months passed before a deal could be made to move Allen to the Argos, a team in search of leadership, however ancient it may have been.

"Initially, we thought the two owners (David Braley and Schwarz) had a deal agreed to. It was supposed to be Damon for a player," said Greg Mohns, a former B.C. coach who is the Argos personnel man. "But when we got talking to Wally, it was like they had no clue. They weren't interested in the deal. Let me tell you, getting this done was a process."

And so the dance began. The Argos made an offer. The Lions said no. The Argos made a list of 10 players available. The Lions rejected the players one by one.

"We figured they were going to have to cut Damon, but we didn't want to wait for that," Mohns said. "We didn't want any further delays. We wanted him in camp."

In the end, Mohns made a deal with Bob O'Billovich at halftime of a pre-season game, and the Argos wound up with a 40-year-old quarterback and relinquished two draft picks to end the ordeal.

FOREVER CALM

Two seasons and one Casey Printers injury later, Allen may wind up opposing Dickenson for the Canadian football championship.

"It's nice to play against your former team," the forever calm Allen said. "But the game is way bigger than what the Lions have done to me. I came (to Toronto) to win the Grey Cup."

Getting there, and playing a team that wanted nothing to do with him, is at least a start. His last Grey Cup start? Maybe his last game?


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