Banner night for Argos

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

It's time to raise the curtain and the championship banner.

The Argos open the regular season tonight against the B.C. Lions at the Rogers Centre, and a crowd of at least 40,000 is expected to witness a rematch of last year's Grey Cup, which the Boatmen won.

The banner will be raised before game time -- and then it's a whole new season.

Argos safety Orlondo Steinauer said yesterday that, from a player's perspective, it's just another game, notwithstanding the hoopla going into it.

"We need to understand that B.C. will probably play above themselves," Steinauer said. "All they've been thinking about is the (Grey Cup) loss. Then we're going to raise the banner and put salt into the wounds. But hey, it's football. It's another game. Nobody is going to make the playoffs or miss the playoffs with this game. It's just another kickoff.

"But (for players) who have been here for this history (of starting the regular season) 1-3 or 2-4 over the years, it's tough.

"You want to start above .500 from the beginning, but you also understand it's a long season -- 18 games and this is from a veteran speaking. If the offence moves the ball and we lose a shootout 38-36, that's not disheartening. If we get blown out, now that's a different story.

"This is a chance to see where we are in 2005 and measure ourselves. We need to see if we've improved as a defence, offence, special teams."

Linebacker Kevin Eiben is predicting the Argos will start the season strongly and finish strongly.

"We realize that last year we were the underdogs," he said. "This year, we are the champions, so they're all going to be gunning for us.

"We've got to go into each game as the champions and know that (the opposition) is going to be bringing their "A" game and we have to have our "A" game."

Quarterback Damon Allen said playing B.C. won't have a bearing on the Argos' mindset.

"Their philosophy may be a little bit different about how they feel about this game, but what we really want to do is just win the game," Allen said.

Argos head coach Pinball Clemons said the team has realistic expectations going into the game after playing only one team -- the Hamilton Tiger-Cats -- in back-to-back pre-season games.

"We don't know the measuring stick and how we'll perform in a full game," Clemons said.

"If you win this game, it's not a big deal. If you don't win this game, it's not a big deal. But it's big to us personally in terms of our goal and what we're trying to do in getting the season started.

"We know and understand in the first game of the year you really don't know what to expect. You can suggest it's the third pre-season game, but the fact is it goes on your (regular-season) record, so we're certainly going to treat it that way."


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