Khari Jones returned to Winnipeg yesterday and continued to say all the right things.
The Calgary Stampeders quarterback, who one day will enter the Winnipeg Football Club's hall of fame, poured absolutely no gas on the fire leading up to tonight's clash at Canad Inns Stadium against the Blue Bombers.
It will be Jones' first game against his old team, and just his third start overall, since he and fullback Randy Bowles were traded from Winnipeg to Calgary last month for defensive tackle Joe Fleming, safety Wes Lysack and fullback Scott Regimbald.
"I don't hold any grudges, I don't think badly, I don't worry about what happened in the past," Jones said. "I had great years here and I loved it here. It was time to move and I moved and it's a good thing.
"A win would give me bragging rights over some of the guys, but that's about it. ... It's a little more than another game, but we're both not going to the playoffs."
Yes, the regular-season finale for both teams is meaningless -- Winnipeg is 6-11 and Calgary is 4-13 -- but the aftershocks of the deal will be front and centre tonight.
"It's a mean-nothing game as far as the standings are concerned, but obviously we want to beat Khari and Randy," Bombers slotback Jamie Stoddard said. "And they're coming in here and they're gonna want to have a final say on the trade, so it's an interesting situation."
The Toronto Argonauts traded Bowles to Winnipeg last winter, but he played sparingly with the Blue and Gold.
He's still a tad upset about that, too.
"There's a personal element because of the clash that I may have had, whether spoken or unspoken, with the administration and the coaching staff," Bowles said. "I want to say, to be politically correct, I didn't fit into this system.
"There were a lot of other political things that were charging that whole decision. I definitely want to come on the field and make some atonement for things that may have gone wrong here. I definitely want to show them that, 'Hey, you sat me for 10 or 12 weeks. This is what you're missing.' There's always going to be that underlying aspect when I'm on the field tomorrow.
"Other than that, there's some personal implications with a bunch of dudes on this team, so it's going to be real interesting to see the heat on the field. It's going to be a blast. There's gonna be some firecrackers going off, for sure."
Meanwhile, Fleming didn't get along with Calgary head coach Matt Dunigan very well, and Lysack wants to prove to the Stamps that they made the wrong move including him in the swap (see page 57).
Another sidebar for tonight's game is the direction the teams are headed. The Bombers have lost four in a row and the Stamps would be riding a two-game winning streak had the referees not blown the call on the final play of last Friday's game in B.C.
Dunigan said his team has gained confidence with each passing day since the trade.
"It's been a big change, a welcome change," Dunigan said of Jones. "He's been the glue that we've been looking for that really helps meld this football team together."
The Bombers, meanwhile, face their most turbulent off-season in five years. Offensive lineman Matt Sheridan, however, believes it will be a brand new story once the snow melts next spring.
"There's so much turnover in this league that there is no guarantee that either of these teams is going to have the same composition or makeup next season," he said, "and it will be a moot point by then."