Lots of pain, lots to gain

Toronto Argo's John Avery watches the team practice in Mississauga, Wednesday, August 30, 2006. ...

Toronto Argo's John Avery watches the team practice in Mississauga, Wednesday, August 30, 2006. (Toronto Sun/David Lucas)

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:46 PM ET

Incentive comes in multiple forms for the Argos in their first-place showdown with the Montreal Alouettes today.

Perhaps no more so than for running back John Avery, who would love a week reprieve from the piercing pre-game shots he receives to kill the excruciating pain in his left ankle.

"It's hard to heal when you keep playing on it," Avery said of the injury he suffered Aug. 25 at Winnipeg. "I have to shoot my ankle up in three different places just to play.

"It would be nice to rest it for a week and let somebody else beat up on each other for a minute."

For team president Keith Pelley, a win would avoid having to sweat out the result of the game tonight between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and B.C. Lions in Vancouver.

If the Argos (10-7) defeat the Als (9-8) they will wrap up first in the CFL East and gain a body-soothing bye to the Nov. 12 division final, which they would host.

A loss and the Argos will take a longer road by either playing the East semi-final at home if the Bombers lose tonight or travelling to Winnipeg should the Lions falter.

"Let's just say that (tonight) I hope I'm having a glass of champagne rather than getting ready to watch Winnipeg-British Columbia," Pelley said, speaking in part to the potential bottom-line implications.

Today's clash in front of an anticipated crowd of roughly 35,000 at the Rogers Centre is a meeting of two teams that stunk out their home joints a week ago -- the Argos losing 13-9 to Edmonton, Montreal falling 30-20 to Edmonton.

Prior to that, though, the two clubs had been going in different directions. Montreal has won just two of its past 10 while the Argos are 8-2 after a 2-5 start.

"Our guys could have folded up the tent," Argos coach Michael (Pinball) Clemons said yesterday. "And now we are 60 minutes away from accomplishing all you possibly can in the regular season."

For most of the recent success, Avery has been front and centre in the lineup, sharing the prime running duties with Ricky Williams, after being benched early in the season.

"It was frustrating to sit because I felt I could help us get back in the win column," Avery said. "I have enough confidence in my myself that I can make a difference. Look what happened. I don't lose. No matter where I've been in my career, when I'm a starter, I win games.

"My hands were tied, that was the worst part of it.

Not long after starting to make his mark, Avery aggravated an injury to an ankle he first broke in high school. When it happened, he thought the bone was shattered again.

"Now it's just a matter of playing with tremendous pain," he said. "Luckily they have some stuff that can numb it up. I don't mind doing it for three more weeks if it gets me another ring."

While the Argos have been winning, they haven't exactly been lighting it up on offence. The Avery-Williams tandem has yet to have a dramatic affect on the outcome of a game, but could this be the week?

The Als were woeful against the run last week, allowing Edmonton's Ron McLendon to record 198 yards.

"We would expect they would try to run on us," Montreal coach Jim Popp said. "It's up to us to stop it."


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