TORONTO - Chad Owens can dream a little, and it doesn’t just involve becoming the first player to reach 3,000 combined yards in consecutive seasons.
“My whole pro career, I was always pushed at being just a returner,” Owens said on Thursday after the Argonauts’ walkthrough at the Rogers Centre in preparation for Friday’s game against the visiting Edmonton Eskimos. “I know I am much more than that. One of my goals is to be a 1,000-yard receiver in this league, and I believe I can do that. It takes touches.”
With three games remaining for the Argos, Owens leads the Boatmen with 598 receiving yards, so it’s fair to say he won’t reach that goal this season.
The question is, can Owens be a legitimate 1,000-yard threat in the air on offence? After recording 3,288 combined yards last year (of which 576 were receiving), he is on the cusp of setting a record. Owens needs just combined 119 yards against the Eskimos to get to 3,000 in 2011.
Though Owens is such a smart returner, Argos head coach/general manager Jim Barker is not sure where the future lies for him as a receiver.
“With a returner, it’s: ‘Get the ball in my hands and let me do something,’” Barker said. “With a receiver, if you have that mentality, you break routes short, you do things differently. You have to be patient as a receiver in order to create openings.
“I think Chad is much better this year than he was last year. He still makes you nervous, (but) that’s just kind of how he is.
“To be as good a receiver as he is a returner, I don’t know if that is ever going to happen, because he is one of the great returners.”
Though Owens has been piling up the yards for a team that has won just four games and will miss the playoffs, Barker doesn’t necessarily think the feat has been accomplished in a vacuum. Some shine comes off Owens’ statistics when they are measured against so few victories, but Barker hopes there has been another impact.
“The point is that he has done something remarkable,” Barker said. “This franchise, it’s important to create some household names. When Pinball (Clemons) was here, he was that guy. We need Chad Owens, Cory Boyd, hopefully Steven Jyles, some players that people in this community can identify with, and they can say they are the best in the league at what they do, and they play for our team.”
Word of Owens’ approach of 3,000 yards apparently has not made it all the way to Alberta. Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed claimed ignorance when told of it.
“I had no idea of that and I don’t think it’s significant in a way that we have to approach this football game,” Reed said. “So congratulations to him if he does it and on his accomplishments, but that has no bearing on how we approach this game.”
Perhaps, but you can bet the Esks’ special teams have been preparing for Owens specifically.
Owens said he knew he could be a forceful player in the CFL when he ran back a punt 90 yards for a touchdown in his first game with Toronto against the Calgary Stampeders in July 2010.
“That really set up my whole career as an Argo,” Owens said. “That’s one play I’m always going to remember. That motivated me and lifted me so high.”
Now, with season’s end in sight, Owens is bittersweet.
“I’m going to enjoy these last couple of weeks with these guys because next training camp, it’s going to be a whole new team with different faces,” Owens said. “Some guys will be gone, so we have to enjoy time with each other.
“We’re just going to continue to grind it out and next year we will be in the Grey Cup.”
ARGOS GUARD PINKS IT UP
Sidelined by a leg injury on Sept. 17, Argonauts guard Taylor Robertson won’t be able to participate in a game he helped make a reality.
On Friday night against the Edmonton Eskimos, the Argos will hold their first pink game, with proceeds earmarked for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Robertson lost his mother, Mary Ann, to breast cancer when he was 7 years old, and has his own breast cancer awareness program, Life on the Line.
“It would be great to be out here and have the pink on, and it’s something I have wanted to do for years,” Robertson said Thursday. “But it’s not about me. One of the reasons I created Life on the Line was to bring pink to the CFL, raise awareness, have 20,000 (at the Rogers Centre) and hundreds of thousands watching on TSN and understanding what we are representing.”
Players will wear pink gloves, wristbands, shoelaces and tape. Those who are injured, including Robertson, will wear pink clothing on the sideline. Booths will be set up in the concourse at the stadium.
“Everyone is taking part,” the Brantford-born Robertson said. “I will have on as much pink as I can.”