England shall never surrender

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

Eric England is jolly old England these days.

Following an off-season in which he opted to re-sign with the Argos rather than explore free agency and likely receive more money, the defensive end found himself the subject of trade rumours to Ottawa and then there was talk about the possibility of losing his job to hotshot rookie Riall Johnson.

But England still is with the Argos and in better shape than last year. In fact, the 34-year-old said he is in better shape than any year he can remember. He wanted to show leadership and let any younger players know if they wanted to take his job, he wouldn't surrender it without competition.

"I feel good, I feel fresh," England said. "I feel younger than I've felt in times before. The stuff about somebody coming in for your job or getting traded, you don't worry about that at all. I'm coming out here to play and do the best I can and help this team in any way I can."

England had a solid season in 2003, his first with Toronto, when he was named a CFL all-star and led the league with 14 quarterback sacks. His production tailed off last year, predicated by injuries and the opposition's double-teaming of him. By contrast, defensive tackle Noah Cantor had a breakout year with 10 sacks, while newcomer Jonathon Brown, who plays the other defensive end spot, had eight sacks.

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"If they had have counted the seven forced fumbles that I had as quarterbacks sacks like they were supposed to, I would have been right back up there again," England said. "I missed a whole bunch of sacks that would have put me right back up where I need to be.

"Hopefully this year (I'll have) the ability to do what I did the year before. I'm not worried about what happened in the past. We're going to concentrate on what's going on right now. You go on the field and do the best you can and you make plays and tackles and you go from there."

Johnson is a non-import and opens up all kinds of possibilities for the Argos if he can start -- freeing up an import spot elsewhere -- but England is not concerned.

"Those things that I can't control I don't worry about," England said. "I read a book once before called Don't Sweat The Small Stuff Because It's All Small Stuff. If I was to worry about everybody else as far as taking my position or something like that, I wouldn't be able to go out there and perform.

"I don't worry about things like that. If I mess up and I don't deserve to be out there, I won't be out there. I'm just going out there every day and try to show them that I can still play; that I am a valuable part of this team.

"I don't think it's what you do on the field, it's how you are off the field and fitting into our family type of situation we have. Riall is a great player, I take my hat off to him, but right now things are the way they are."


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