Argos, Mann prepare for Ticats

Maurice Mann drops a pass under pressure from Eskimos defensive back Donovan Alexander in Edmonton,...

Maurice Mann drops a pass under pressure from Eskimos defensive back Donovan Alexander in Edmonton, Alta., July 9, 2011. (DAN RIEDLHUBER/Reuters)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:12 PM ET

TORONTO - When the bottom fell out of his world as a Hamilton Tiger-Cat, Maurice Mann got philosophical, noting a player could love the game of football but that “it will never love you back.”

He was wrong.

Four weeks later he is once again feeling the love.

“It’s turned out to be kind of like Christmas came early for me,” said Mann of the trade that sent him to Toronto.

Mann and the Argonauts went through their final practice of the season Tuesday, a light-hearted affair, as they prepare to meet the Ticats on Thursday.

For the Argonauts it marks the end of a disappointing season; for the Ticats it marks a prelude to a playoff run in which they hope to over-shadow a season of under-achievement.

“There’s going to be a whole lot of chatter out there. A lot of chatter!” said Mann, of the Argos who were in full dress rehearsal at the University of Toronto practice site.

The only thing some players exercised in the pre-workout calisthenics were their lips as they gathered along the sideline, some in small groups, stretched yarns instead of limbs. It had a feel similar to the last day of school.

“You stink,” yelled linebacker Tristan Black after a missed pass. Nobody called anyone out for having “the Cooties”. But it felt close.

Kicker Noel Prefontaine took turns at wide receiver. That was uneventful. But then he became the featured actor in what had the earmarks of a segment in America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Special teams were practicing punt formations when one of the defensive players jumped offside. Everyone relaxed and the offensive linemen went down on their knees; Prefontaine turned to look at special team’s coordinator Mike O’Shea, which was the exact moment that centre Chad Rempel snapped the ball.

Whomp!

Gorgeous spiral. It smacked Prefontaine inside the groin. The sound echoed towards cringing onlookers.

Thump! Down goes Prefontaine. He rolled around a bit. Then, clutching the bruised area to the sound of laughter and general jocularity; head coach Jim Barker turned away with a huge grin, defensive players hooting as Prefontaine slowly picked himself up.

“Pre? He’s all right,” laughed Mann. “He’s the toughest kicker I’ve ever seen.”

It may not show up on YouTube but chances are the Argos’ practice video is going to be more entertaining than normal film breakdowns.

Mann, meantime, admits he’s “excited” about playing his first game against his former teammates but he’s not big into this whole revenge thing.

“I’m completely done with them. Its the nature of the business that change comes. Change just came kind of early for me but ... this is nothing to prove to them. It shouldn’t be about me; it’s an Argo-Hamilton rivalry this is not a me against the Ticats rivalry.”

Maybe.

But he admits there was disappointment and some hard feelings about what transpired in Hamilton. He went from being the top receiver in the CFL after two games, to injured, to an after-thought when he did get back. That has to hurt. And, it did.

There was a pressure to make plays, yet Mann felt he wasn’t getting the opportunity to make those plays.

When he was dealt, head coach Marcel Bellefeuille left it to an assistant to inform Mann. But, the initial rancor has subsided.

The deal meant no playoffs.

No becoming Kevin Glenn’s go-to receiver.

But, no more hard feelings, either said Mann.

“They’ve evaporated. You hold on to that initially, even if just for a few seconds, because you wonder what if ...”

The closest he comes to a direct criticism of Ticats’ management came when he noted it wasn’t “veteran-receiver friendly”, a reference to the club’s trade of him and Arland Bruce.

“The environment here is a lot different, uhhmmm,” said Mann, skirting the verbal minefields. “It’s very, ahhhh, how do I word this properly? It’s relaxed. More of a feeling of just go out there and give it your best. It’s important for players to understand that. You get a lot of support behind you here.”

He seemed to have lost that in Hamilton where Chris Williams and Dave Stala emerged as the primary receivers.

Mann, with 35 catches for 358 yards, will be rooting for them in the playoffs, “just not against us (on Thursday). I want to beat them by 50 points.”

He laughs. Ticats’ defensive end Justin Hickman is one of his closest buddies.

“I used to tell (Hickman) if I ever get the chance to play against you, I’ll make you pay, because he was always talking the most mess when the offence went against the defence in practice.

“But once we get done with them I wish them the best because I sweated blood and tears with those guys. It’s good to see your friends excel even if you don’t get the chance to be with them anymore.”


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