TORONTO -- Jeremaine Copeland might have a few sleepless nights before Canada Day.
But as much as the Argonauts’ best receiver is anticipating returning to Calgary for the first time after five years as a Stampeder, he is keeping the bigger picture in mind.
“Words can’t express how bad I want to win,” Copeland said on Saturday, after yet another Argos practice in the pouring rain.
“Everybody in this organization has been thinking about July 1. It’s the first game of the season for a new Argos team and the whole off-season as been about this organization coming together.”
There’s no understating the importance of Copeland to the Argos’ offence.
It’s true that whatever success the Argos will have when they possess the football will flow from the arm of starting quarterback Cleo Lemon, but Copeland is the guy who has been around, the guy who has experienced the lows of losing in the Canadian Football League and the joy that comes with lifting the Grey Cup.
And he remains at force at his position.
Copeland’s 12 touchdowns by reception in 2009 were the most in the CFL, and though Copeland is 33 and not getting younger, head coach Jim Barker doesn’t dance around his expectations of the Tennessee native.
“He sets the pace for the whole group,” Barker said.
“When he is on and doing what he does, we will be a better team.
“It was critical (to acquire Copeland in the off-season). I felt like we had a good corps of young receivers, but they did not have that direction. To have a 10-year veteran, it’s everything. While he may not be as fast as he was five years ago, he understands the game and provides us with so much more than what he does on the field.”
But it was on the field that Copeland, who cost the Argos receiver P.K. Sam in a trade with Calgary, was setting examples on Saturday.
He caught about everything Lemon threw at him, and it wasn’t long before other receivers were making big catches.
“It’s slowly coming around,” said Copeland, whose megawatt smile and happy outlook is a positive influence in the locker room.
“We’re getting better each day and I think Cleo is starting to get a feel for all of the receivers. We are starting to get our legs back, going in fast motion. We need to be at full speed when we head out to Calgary.”
Copeland briefly will be reunited with his wife and family when he arrives in Calgary on Tuesday night with the rest of the Argos. With the phone calls already coming in earnest from friends and media in Calgary in anticipation of his return, Copeland faces an emotional week.
But he is glad the game against the Stamps, with whom he won a Grey Cup in 2008, comes quickly.
And after the Argos play host to Calgary in Week 3, there’s no chance of the clubs meeting again until the playoffs.
“Both games are early, and I would not have it any other way,” Copeland said.
“They can be behind us and we can move on and play the rest of the season out. I’ll definitely have to control myself.”
With three day left of practice before they travel, the Argos will fine-tune their game plan for the Stamps.
Few figure the Argos will leave Cowtown with a ‘W’, but perhaps it’s worth noting that in each of the past two years (both horrible ones), the Argos opened the season with road victories.
“Nobody expects us to win, but we are going to out there and have fun,” Copeland said.
“We expect to win.”