Coach Clemons remains cautious

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Tony Miles was running through the Argos offence out loud, man by man, asset by asset, when he paused to make a stunning proclamation.

"We want to do something special," Miles said. "We want to go 18-0.

"I know that sounds crazy, but we want to do something historic. I'm not just saying this. I think it's possible. If we stay healthy, I believe it's possible. We know what we're capable of and we're capable of going 18-0."

Maybe they should start with one win.

The Argos, in the Ricky Williams era, have played two pre-season games against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and lost two-pre-season games. The previous game they played that actually mattered -- the Eastern final against the Montreal Alouettes -- they lost.

"Only team (that is) going to beat us is us," said Miles, who caught 91 passes for 1,275 yards last season. "We've been going against ourselves the whole camp. You get edgy after a while. We're ready for some real action."

The most anticipated Argos season in years begins tomorrow afternoon at the Rogers Centre. Whether the Argos win their opener, the next 17, or whatever happens in between remains the great unknown.

But the possibilities are unlike any Argos team before it.

Damon Allen has played a million or so years in the Canadian Football League, played on four championship teams, and never has seen a lineup like this.

He has Ricky Williams and Jeff Johnson in the backfield, John Avery as their backup.

Jim Germany and Angelo Santucci and Neil Lumsden, they are not.

Allen can throw the ball to Miles, to Arland Bruce, to Robert Baker, to R. Jay Soward (in between suspensions and popcorn runs) to dependable Andre Talbot, to Keith Stokes.

"And they're all different kind of athletes," Allen said. "They each give you another element.

"If we can stay focused and not get ahead of ourselves, I think it's possible (to go undefeated). There's always a chance. I've never seen it, yet. But I believe we're capable. We have to stay healthy and we have to limit the turnovers."

And, eventually, they have to win a football game.

The season starts tomorrow and the entire focus has shifted from Williams to two pre-season losses. In fairness, Williams still is rounding into game condition. People around the Argos now acknowledge that much. Either that or they're intentionally downplaying Williams' role in the offence and will have him explode on Saturday.

More likely, he still is learning and getting into shape.

But around him, there is all kinds of laughing optimism for a team that tripped all over itself throughout the exhibition season. If you didn't know better and saw the looseness of the Argos practice yesterday, you would have no idea the season begins tomorrow. Part of that is the Pinball Clemons way. Part of that is the confidence this team exudes -- a confidence Clemons cautions about.

In other years, maybe this Argos team could talk about its invincibility. Just not this year. Not yet, anyhow.

"The league is too strong," Clemons said. "There's a boat load of talent here. There is talent everywhere."

Ottawa is gone. One pushover off the schedule. Hamilton had added Jason Maas, Corey Holmes, Josh Ranek, Joe Paopao and Terry Vaughn. Another pushover off the schedule. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers upgraded almost everywhere and Saskatchewan "always has so much raw talent."

Which means what?

"It's TBD," said Clemons, meaning to be determined. "I think it's only partially true that (the Argos are the only team that can defeat the Argos). That may have been true in the league that existed a year ago. It's not a recognition of what happened in the off-season."

Don Matthews likes to say there are only two kinds of football teams: Those that are getting better and those that aren't.

"We want to win," Miles said. "It's not about keeping people happy. If we win, people will be happy. You look at your own numbers after the fact. They don't matter. You're just one person here.

"The team is greater than any one person."

WHAT WILL RICKY BE?

The assumption has long been that a star player in the NFL should dominate in the CFL. But that very assumption is now on trial. The more Ricky Williams looks like another CFL back, the less people will worship the difference in talent between the two leagues. The games are different and so are the athletes and still this will be a fascinating study.

VALUE OF RYAN

What B.J. Ryan brings to the Blue Jays cannot be measured simply in save statistics. He brings a certain confidence. He brings a late-inning belief that hasn't been evident in years. It's no accident the Jays are 33-1 when leading after seven innings and unbeaten when leading after eight. Whatever the expectations were, Ryan has exceeded them.

TRAPP SHUT

Every time we want to give John Ferguson the benefit of the doubt, he trips over himself. If he wanted to fire chief scout Barry Trapp, he should have done it himself, face to face. Like a man. Having his assistant Mike Penny, whose own scouting record is dubious, wield the hatchet makes Ferguson appear as a weak leader, once again.


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