Khari still rooting for Blue

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

There is one final question that must be answered before the Winnipeg Blue Bombers mercifully close the book on their 2004 season.

What kind of reception will Calgary Stampeders quarterback Khari Jones get at Canad Inns Stadium on Friday night?

"I don't know, to tell the truth," Jones said yesterday from Calgary. "Who knows? They've been great to me for a lot of years and I had a good time there, but it's a Winnipeg crowd, so they don't like the competitor and I understand that, too.

"Either way is fine. If they boo that's fine, if they cheer that's fine. Hopefully it's a sign of respect either way, because I definitely enjoyed them over the years."

Friday night's game, which is the regular-season finale for both teams, means absolutely squat because neither the Bombers (6-13) nor the Stampeders (4-13) are playoff bound.

The only real drama will be in how Jones performs. Well, for everyone except Jones, anyway.

"My biggest thing is trying to build toward next year and hopefully getting a win in the process," he said.

"Things have been going pretty well here for the past couple of games and we'd like to continue that feeling and have it go with us into the off-season."

Jones, one of the most prolific passers in Bomber history who led the team to the 2001 Grey Cup, was traded to the Stampeders last month, along with fullback Randy Bowles, for defensive tackle Joe Fleming, safety Wes Lysack and fullback Scott Regimbald.

Winnipeg, with quarterback Kevin Glenn at the helm, has lost three straight games since the trade and was eliminated from post-season contention on Sunday.

Calgary is 1-2 since the deal, but Jones is 1-1 as the starter and would be 2-0 had the officials not blown the call on the final play of last Friday's game in B.C.

EVER THE DIPLOMAT

Jones, ever the diplomat, said he didn't cackle with glee when the Edmonton Eskimos bounced the Bombers from the playoff picture.

"I still root for those guys whenever I watch them on TV. I still want them to do well," he said. "I've been in the position that Kevin's in, so I want him to do as well as he can out there.

"... I'm definitely always rooting for all of them. I was rooting for them against Edmonton, and it's just a tough situation. They have some things to take care of over there, but I'm good with the situation I'm in and I'll go with that."

Bombers slotback Milt Stegall, who caught 59 touchdown passes from Jones, just wants to win the game, too.

"It has nothing to do with Khari," Stegall said. "I don't care if it's my mother or my wife or brother. I don't care who I'm playing. I just want to win.

"I want to beat Khari. I'll call Khari and tell him I want to beat him. And he's lucky I don't play defence, either, because I'll smack him in the mouth."

Jones chuckled when he heard that.

"I wouldn't expect anything less. He's a competitor," said Jones, who doesn't know yet if he'll be sleeping in his Winnipeg home or at the team hotel.

"That's all right. I'd do the same to him. I'll be going after the guys and I know they'll be going after me. It'll be a good atmosphere, a real competitive atmosphere.

"It'll be kind of like practice, I'm sure, where we're trying to beat each other's heads in and then we laugh about it afterwards."


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