Allen still not ready to pack it in

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

The finish line is forever near for Damon Allen, but he won't allow himself to see it.

It is all too blurry right now, too uncertain.

It is like so much of his career -- someone else's perception of what he can or cannot do takes public precedence over what he actually does.

He never has had time for that kind of speculation game but this is normally Allen time, his time of year, his time to prosper.

Or the time is up.

That is all that is at stake for the oldest quarterback in professional football playing for the oldest franchise in professional football.

This is proving time for a player with almost nothing left to prove.

How much game does he left?

Does he have another season in him?

Does he have three more weeks and a Grey Cup performance left?

In what has been a record-breaking personal year for Allen -- but not necessarily a season to remember yet -- the question lingers: What exactly is he capable of anymore?

All that will determined in the weeks ahead. It begins tomorrow, with the Argos playing for first place against the Montreal Alouettes, playing for a bye week, playing for home field advantage.

It isn't the playoffs yet ... it only feels like it.

Damon Allen knows what it's like to be a kid. It never leaves him. It's one of so many reasons why he his age and his body always seem in conflict.

"It reminds you of being a kid," he said yesterday, standing on the practice field at Erindale College, talking about this week and the weeks to come. "When you're young and you're dreaming of playing a sport, you dream about playing in big games and championship games and playoff games. This is where you want to be.

"Ask anybody in the league if they'd want to be in our situation. We're playing for first place, playing for our division. Most people would love to be doing that. This time of year, it's always fun.

"I don't look at these as my last games. I haven't even thought about it that way. I have a game Saturday. That's where my focus is."

The Argos are playing for first place tomorrow not because of Allen the quarterback. Defence has carried this football team. The offence has played the part of accidental tourist. Once in a while it shows up.

There was a lot of noise about Ricky Williams, but most of it signifying nothing.

Tony Miles, the great receiver, won't play tomorrow.

It isn't perfect -- but what about this Argos season has been?

"This team had every reason to go into the tank," said Pinball Clemons, the head coach. Instead, the Montreal Alouettes -- 2 and 8 in their past 10 games -- did it for them. "Even winning eight of our last 10, it was never easy."

Nothing about the ancient Allen has looked smooth or easy this season.

A year ago, he was the no-argument Most Outstanding Player in the CFL. He was commanding on the field, in control, playing as though the game slowed down just for him. The best player in the league.

This year, the rhythm has not returned. The feeling is choppy. The questions are many. Nothing looks easy. Not much looks natural.

There is doubt, just none from his coach.

When asked how he knows there is still another year in Allen, Clemons was taken aback by the assertion.

"The reason I know (he can still play), I look at how he practices. I look at how he prepares. I see it every day," said Clemons.

"If that day ever happens, like eight years from now, I'll know. It won't happen on game day. It will happen as he prepares for game day and I see how he prepares now."

This has been a weak year of CFL football. Every team in the East is flawed. The quarterbacking in the conference has rarely been less effective.

If somebody has to go the Grey Cup, why not the Argos, and why not old man Allen?

"I feel fine," said Allen, addressing his health, physical and mental.

"Everyone at some point in the season is playing banged up. It's about the guys who are capable of playing beyond their aches and pains. When a team plays like that, they'll always be a team that will be tough to beat."

The kind of team Damon Allen wants to play for, so long as he keeps playing.


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