Argos thankful Baker on their side

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

On the airplane ride home from Winnipeg, Chad Folk wandered over to teammate Robert Baker and thanked him aloud for "not killing me in the huddle."

He was kidding. Sort of.

Which is what you do with Baker when you're not sure what to do with Baker.

Folk just happens to be 6-feet, 274 pounds, and about as wide as a condominium. Baker is the same height, 80 or so pounds lighter, only more ferocious, more feared.

That is the good news for the Argos and often the bad. Robert Baker can be that dangerous and that electric a football player.

Just don't try to calm him down on the field. You don't know what might happen next.

Folk, the Argos centre, tried to talk Baker down from intensity land last Sunday in Winnipeg and escaped to tell the tale. When kicker Noel Prefontaine attempted a similar intervention earlier in the season, the Argos played out their own version of Family Feud on the sidelines for all to see.

The punch, rather the punches, cost Baker a one-game suspension administered by his own team. And since then, Baker has done what Baker does: He has made big catches and big hits and taken big penalties, usually for roughness of the unnecessary kind.

There are no small games in his football world. He isn't one who needs to get jacked up to play the Montreal Alouettes tomorrow at the Big Owe in a game that is almost certain to define this Argos season.

Being jacked up is who Baker, the football player, is. In between, he writes poetry and music and wants to perform. But for the football player on he field, for game or practice, there is that fine line that this sport forever dangles over. You want your players to be intense and fearless and almost full of rage.

That is so much of the game. But at the same time, you want them to be controlled and disciplined and aggressive and smart.

Hit hard, just not too hard. Be tough, just not too tough. Be mean, just not too mean. Where do you draw the line of scrimmage?

Sometimes, although coach Pinball Clemons strongly disagrees, Baker goes offside. He can't let something go. He has to respond. He has to have closure.

At times, it's his reputation and cost him. At times, it has cost his own team. At times, he has benefited from the way in which he approaches every game.

REPUTATION

"He got one (roughing penalty) last week for hitting during a play," said Clemons, who thinks Baker is a victim of his own reputation. "Maybe he hits too hard.

"Others with less image have taken more penalties. Only nobody knows that."

There will be no pre-game conversation between Clemons and Baker either today or tomorrow. Clemons insists it isn't necessary or warranted. There is terrific communication between these two, so much of it unspoken. They expect the world of each other and every once in a while Clemons has to be there to steer Baker back on track.

Clemons is highly protective of the fiery Baker, knowing he can just about be the best receiver in the CFL, and knowing he is just about the toughest. He also knows that deep down, what doesn't show up in sideline shoving and bouts of profanity, is an emotional attachment to this football team, this football family that keeps Baker breathing.

This is his oxygen. Tomorrow, against Montreal, is the kind of test he lives for. The Alouettes have won four games in a row, averaged almost 40 points on offence in those games.

The margin of victory in Montreal could be as thin as the line Robert Baker, the erstwhile Touchdown Maker, forever walks.

Just don't try to calm him down. There is still a game to be won -- or lost.

Baker's kind of game. A big one.


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