The bitter taste of being stopped one game short last year from returning to defend their Grey Cup championship swished around the mouths of the Argonauts all off-season.
With the start of the 2006 season -- commencing tomorrow when they play host to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at the Rogers Centre -- the Argos finally can put aside their painful 33-17 loss to the Montreal Alouettes last year in the East Division final.
"When you're playing a good team like Montreal, you truly understand how difficult it is to repeat," quarterback Damon Allen said this week. "Our goals are the same. You have a bad taste but even within the bad taste, now that the season is here, you realize the challenges will be totally different than years past. But our goals will still be the same; hosting the Eastern final and coming in first place."
Coach Pinball Clemons is loathe to put any kind of theme on the team at this point.
"We want to approach this as just the first game of a new season," he said. "As we all do at the beginning of the season, we're all looking forward to getting to the Grey Cup, so we're just extremely, extremely excited to get the season started. We want to be very myopic right now. Think about this first game and get off to a good start and not really worry about what the team of this year is going to be or anything like that."
Throughout the season one player, Ricky Williams, undoubtedly will be watched more than the others. It's just a question of how much he can contribute and how much the Argos, a predominant passing team, will commit to running the ball, which is Williams' strength. Williams is arguably the biggest-name player to be signed by the Argos in franchise history. Suspended for the 2006 National Football League season for his fourth substance abuse, Williams came to Toronto because the Miami Dolphins, to whom he is under contract to for two more years, gave the Argos permission to sign him.
If he plays up to the form he did four years ago, leading the NFL in yardage, and can catch some passes, he'll certainly make a difference.
"When we look at him and what he brings to our football team, we certainly believe we have an opportunity to run the ball more effectively than we have in the past," Clemons said. "Now the question is, does that make us a more productive football team because we pass the ball so well? Does that take anything away from that or can we add to that? What we want to do as we continue to go along is give him the opportunities to do what he does well -- to run the football.
"Our No. 1 objective is to win football games, and so within that we want to see how we can best use him and best use his talents and we also want to see and continue to learn how his talents fit us. It's incumbent upon him to really be committed and dedicated to learning our game and the differences in his game and expanding his game to some extent to fit what we do. We don't want to change his game, we want to do what he does well -- but we want him to challenge himself and to expand himself to fit our game.
"As we go along and we both work hard at it, he will learn and be more knowledgeable about our game and about the Toronto Argonauts and what we do and we will get a better understanding of what he does well. With that, as the season goes we'll grow together."