Yesterday, with the season-opening victory in the record books, the Toronto Argonauts finally could admit the obvious.
They needed this win like a drowning man needs a life preserver.
"These guys pick up the newspaper, they watch TV. It takes some pressure off," said coach Bart Andrus, after a 30-17 win over the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton. Another loss to start this season, after finishing 0-for-9 last season would've made that monkey peeking over their shoulders look about the size of a gorilla.
"Going in, I'm sure a lot of guys were downplaying it, but there's no doubt this gets the monkey off our back. It's my first win in the CFL," Andrus said, "it was a first win for a lot of guys here. We still have a long way to go and the video of the game proves that."
Aside from the numbers on the scoreboard, that video will show this was not exactly a work of perfection.
First, Arland Bruce is lighter in the wallet after the league fined him for acting light between the ears. It resulted from a bizarre touchdown celebration in which he stripped off his helmet, shoulder pads and then lay down on his back pretending -- in what he said was a tribute to Michael Jackson -- to be buried in the end zone. Bruce was assessed two objectionable conduct penalties. He apologized yesterday at a team meeting.
Next time, maybe, he could just try moonwalking.
It wasn't the only time the Argos suffered breakdowns in discipline. The normally controlled Zeke Moreno got flagged for unneccesary roughness, although Andrus noted it was in reaction to a sucker punch. But add it up and Toronto gave up 110 yards on 10 penalties.
"I had a talk with the guys about making sure we're not giving anybody anything (and) hurting ourselves by doing something out of anger," Andrus said.
As for Bruce, the fine wasn't unexpected. The league has rules against players removing their helmets on the field and Bruce had so much of his uniform scattered on the ground he was halfway to a stripper pole.
"I told them once they cross the goal-line they can celebrate how they want in a legal way," Andrus said. "Obviously he crossed over that line and he feels bad about that, particularly that we were penalized on the kickoff. We had a couple other incidents that weren't that obvious and we had a couple guys stand up today and apologize to the team."
Special teams continue to be a concern. They averaged 2.4 yards returning punts and kickoffs. Dovonte Edwards had 12 yards in five punt returns and another 10 yards on two kickoffs. Not exactly Dominique Dorsey numbers. Said Andrus: "(the special teams are) nowhere near where we're happy with them."
The team did get a Purple Heart effort from kicker Eddie Johnson. Yesterday, he was getting an MRI on the shoulder he seperated making a tackle on a kickoff.
"He went in (to the dressing room), they set it ... they had him in a brace to hold it in place," said Andrus, after Johnson returned to kick three converts, a field goal and compile a 45-yard average on 11 punts.
He also made a touchdown-saving trip on Marquay McDaniel's punt return.
"I've seen guys come back and play with those braces but never that quickly," Andrus said. "It shows what a tough player he is."
No word yet on whether he'll be able to play next week against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
But, after winning the job from Jason Medlock in pre-season, it's likely the only way anyone keeps him from showing up is if they slam a coffin lid shut on him.