TORONTO - Professional football players love to talk about “the grind,” a catch-all term that refers to the laborious days and months that lead to the Grey Cup.
For the Argonauts, who finally are about to play consecutive home games (15 days apart, however), the term has been a little more defined.
“A lot of people say it is a grind on the road, and it is,” offensive tackle Rob Murphy said on Wednesday. “Whether you are just going down the QEW to Hamilton, it is an away game. It’s good to have these back-to-back home games.”
The Argos beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders two weeks ago, a victory that made the bye week enjoyable. Players don’t often look too far ahead on the schedule, but the fact the Argos will play five of their final seven games at home will be welcome.
“The benefit of playing so many on the road at the beginning of the year (four of five, during which the Argos compiled a 1-4 record) is that it’s going to come back to us at the end of the year,” Murphy said. “You get to sleep in your own house, your own routine, not taking red-eyes.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but certainly, it is tough.”
Additionally, the Argos are about to enter a phase of their season which will feature regularity. After Friday night’s home game against the B.C. Lions, each of the Argos’ following four games will be on a Saturday. There won’t be any short four-day turnarounds at a time when the games get crucial.
A quirk in their schedule means the Argos will play the Lions twice in the next nine days, a pair of Braley Bowls that could help determine if one of the teams can escape their similar 2-6 records and begin a charge to a playoff spot.
“Coaching-wise it is a challenge, in terms of scheme and wanting to do some different things,” Argos head coach Jim Barker said. “I remember back to 2003 in Calgary, we (the Stampeders) beat (the Edmonton Eskimos) on Labour Day and then went up there the next week and just got smoked. It’s hard to have one game and then know what (is going to happen) in the next game. But I enjoy it.”
The records aren’t the only similarities the Argos and Lions share. As Barker noted, quarterbacks Cleo Lemon and Travis Lulay both are trying to find their way. David Braley owns both teams. And both clubs have players who are quite sure they collectively are better than their record indicates.
“It’s funny, because any time we play B.C., it is pretty heated,” said Murphy, who left the Lions in 2009 to sign with the Boatmen. “It’s going to be a good matchup. I look forward to it, for some selfish reasons, of going against some guys I played with.”
Of course, had the regular-season schedule played out like many had hoped, the Argos would be preparing for the annual Labour Day Classic in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats. Instead, the Montreal Alouettes will visit Ivor Wynne Stadium on Monday afternoon.
“If you had your druthers, we wish we were playing on Monday against Hamilton, but the schedule did not work out that way,” Barker said.