“Considering the number of times I touch the ball in comparison to a lot of others it is just one of those things. Unfortunate. I think I’m good with the ball. I don’t even worry about it,” Owens said.
He does have a point: He does have his hands on the ball more than pretty much any other player in the league.
But it is also a statistical truth that he has been responsible for 10 of Toronto’s 24 fumbles — eight of which the Argos were unable to recover.
It has been the one scab on an otherwise incredible season. He has five games with more than 100 yards receiving, including a 176-yard performance against Hamilton. There are eight games in which he has returned kicks for more than 100 yards.
He understands this is his chance to do something special; to leave his footsteps in the sand; a chance to forge his name into the annals of the CFL just as Clemons did a football generation ago.
“It means a whole lot. Not only from a personal standpoint but as a group, not only this year but the past few years when we’ve been able to do some good things as a special team unit. This is about leaving my mark, I guess ... but it’s also about all the guys who were here, and are here.”
Owens last year became the first professional player to break the 3,000 combined yards barrier in successive years.
Now he stands near the precipice of history again.
“I know it would be my name etched in the books but its also about the Jeff Johnsons and Matt Blacks and all the other guys who have really busted their butts. It would be great for all of them, too, if I could do it.”
Owens uses “if” a lot when speaking of Clemons record, or of chasing the 4,000 yard marker.
He knows how difficult it is; he knows how soon an injury can derail a team’s season, a man’s career, a boy’s dream.
He understands how special this would be not only for himself, but for his team, his family and perhaps a future generation of CFL players.
His son Chad Jr., is a nine-year-old. He plays in the Burlington minor football league. He is his father’s biggest fan and, laughs Chad, also already a critic. “My son is excited. He can’t wait for it. After every game, the next morning he wakes up and watches the replays. Checking it out. Scoping me. Critiquing me. Coaching me.
“I told him, ‘You never know.’ But he says, ‘daddy I want you to get it. I want you to get it!’ I told him I’d try my best.”
Owens seems genuinely grateful for what the game has given him, rather than what he has brought to the game.
“You don’t play this game to just play. You play because you love it. You play because you want to prove that you are the best ... that’s what drives me in the off-season, motivates me to work harder and set goals higher and higher.”
So, he wants to surpass Pinball. And he would love to ramble past 4,000 yards. For himself, yes. But also because it would make his team better, make the league look good, and give the next generation something for which to strive.
“I love the CFL, the opportunity it has given me and my family. Not only the finances it has provided. But also the opportunity to provide my family with the excitement to watch me play.
“So, yes, everyone wants to leave those footsteps ... I just hope that at the end of my career, future generations can take something from what I’ve done.”
Meantime, defences will continue trying to take something from him now. They are attacking the ball as much as they are trying to tackle Owens.
“He knows the techniques. It’s just executing the techniques that it takes to protect the ball. Chad does it well sometimes,” said head coach Scott Milanovich. “It’s just when he’s trying to shake free sometimes that he gets a little loose from the ball. (Defences) know now. He’s got a target on his back now, everybody is trying to strip him.
“We’re always working on the techniques of how to hold the football and how to cover up. Chad just has to get better with it.”
Either that, or he’ll have Chad Jr. to deal with — and no father wants to go there.
DURIE PROVES HIS WORTH
When Andre Durie returned after being injured for four games this season, he had something to prove.
“This is my third year being a back that comes out and catches passes. I’d always been a running back. I really wanted to show that I can be a receiver this year. After the four games I missed I felt I had to come out the last part of my season and show what I could do and be more sound in my game.”
The last three games would suggest that after six CFL seasons, Durie has finally arrived. Finally found his comfort zone.
Durie has four touchdown catches in the past three games, after just one in the first 11 games.
Of his 842 yards this year, 249 have come in those past three games. “We’re utilizing the flats more. That’s kind of my game. Utilizing the short game a bit more, then making yardage. That’s one part of our game that’s picked up a bit,” said Durie.
He will finish the season with career bests in catches, receiving yards and TDs.