Competitive fire burning for Argonauts' Chad Owens

Argonauts star Chad Owens is approaching the upcoming season they way he always does, with a strong...

Argonauts star Chad Owens is approaching the upcoming season they way he always does, with a strong work ethic. (REUTERS)

IAN SHANTZ, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:33 AM ET

TORONTO - The guy who does it all wants to do even more.

It’s hardly a revelation. It will always be that way with Chad Owens, one of the established puzzle pieces of the Toronto Argonauts that contrasts the cloud of question marks hovering overtop every CFL team at this time of year.

It’s the way Owens is wired — the next challenge is the only thing that matters.

Yesterday’s accomplishments? Gone with the wind. It’s all about today, and, after that, tomorrow for the league’s star, who is stepping into his fourth season in Double Blue.

“Every year is a new opportunity,” the 31-year-old Honolulu native said as the second week of full-squad training camp concluded on Sunday under a rainy backdrop in Oakville.

“You’ve got to focus on today, and tomorrow, we do the same thing.”

Perhaps it would be easy for Owens to fall into the trap of his past achievements, resting easy with the knowledge of his abilities. After all, winning the league’s most outstanding player award while shattering records and leading various statistical CFL categories en route to helping your team to a title on home field is pretty much the stuff of dreams.

And it’s awfully difficult to get better when you’ve already been the best.

But awfully difficult has always been Owens’ path of choice, making him the kind of player a coach would take to the manufacturer and order 50 copies of it he could.

“The great ones, the guys like Chad, the guys like Ricky Ray, you don’t have to challenge them. It’s something that’s inside their body and they want to be better than they’ve ever been,” Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said.

“We’re lucky to have a few of those guys.”

Like any athlete worth his salt, Owens, known as the Flyin’ Hawaiian, thrives on what comes next. It’s what will continue to serve as the driving force as he leads his Argos into a Grey Cup title defence.

If hearts were shaped like objects, Owens’ is a Bunsen burner.

“Anything that involves winning and losing,” he said. “Ping pong, golf, playing cards, basketball, just shooting around, playing a game of HORSE ... as athletes we live for that. That’s why we’re here, it’s because of the challenge.”

That approach is infectious.

“Today, the rain’s pouring down and still he’s the first guy to jump up and down and get the team going and get you excited to play football,” said fellow Argos receiver Andre Durie, a close pal of Owens. “That’s one of the things that his personality gives off to the guys: It radiates energy.”

Owens’ role with the Boatmen has expanded each season, to the point where he racked up a pro-football record 3,863 all-purpose yards last season, in doing so surpassing former Argos superstar Mike (Pinball) Clemons.

Owens led the league with 1,328 receiving yards in 2012 — nearly twice as much as his previous best total a year prior — he was tops in the CFL with 2,510 combined return yards and finished the regular season with six touchdowns before a memorable string of playoff performances that included a punt-return major in the Eastern semifinal against Edmonton.

Despite the ascent, there is an area in his game Owens acknowledges he needs to improve on.

“I think I might have led the league last year in fumbles (eight) and that’s something I’m definitely not proud of, so I’m definitely going to work on that and I hope to not have any this year,” he said.

If last year’s group of receivers were raw, the likes of Dontrelle Inman and Durie have that much more experience coming into this season, meaning it will be interesting to see whether the Argos choose to continue using their feature receiver-punt returner in as many situations.

“(Last season), we monitored Chad’s health and kind of evaluated how he was able to perform throughout a game with the load he had,” Milanovich said. “We’ll do the same this year and if we get to a point where we think he has too much on his plate then there will be a contingency plan in place to scale back and make sure that he’s healthy and performing at the highest level.”

It worked before and if it works again, the rest of the league will once again have a major challenge of its own to contend with.

FIRST CUTS COMING

The first swath of cuts is on its way.

Two weeks into training camp and the Toronto Argonauts’ picture is about to become a smidgen clearer as the team is expected to announce its first series of cuts on Monday.

It’s an unkind order of business made necessary by the fact the Boatmen have just one pre-season game remaining and must bring the roster down to a more manageable number with the season slated to open June 28.

The league required all teams to be down to 65 players — not including those on the injured list and roster non-counters such as 2013 draft picks — by midnight Sunday.

“It’s hard because it’s still been a relatively short period of time, so ... you have to use your gut instinct on who is the guy to keep and who is the guy to get rid of,” head coach Scott Milanovich said on Sunday morning.

“We’re not always right, so that’s the hard part of it. You wish you had a little bit more time to evaluate some of the guys, but you have to go on what you see and the good thing is it does help narrow things down for things like special teams. It’s hard to get everybody reps and get them good at what they’re doing.”


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