Big date for Abou

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

Mike Abou-Mechrek has been waiting for this day since Feb. 23.

If you don't believe us, just check his calendar.

Come tomorrow night, the offensive lineman will get his first chance to face his former team as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-6) host the Ottawa Renegades (5-3) at Canad Inns Stadium.

"The day that I signed back in Winnipeg, I looked up and put a big circle around this day," said Abou-Mechrek, who returned to the Blue Bombers as a free agent after spending the past three seasons in the nation's capital. "You go to my house right now and there's a big circle around Friday."

And so there should be.

A win tomorrow night will help the Blue Bombers stay in the thick of the playoff hunt in the West, not to mention provide another important jolt of confidence by knocking off the top team in the East Division.

"Our goal is to make the playoffs and make a run down the stretch," said Abou-Mechrek. "We've got to put ourselves in position to do that."

FIRED UP

As for going head-to-head against many of his former teammates, let's just say that Abou-Mechrek is looking forward to it.

"I get fired up no matter what and I'm not playing well unless I'm fighting," he said. "I guess I'll approach this like any other game. Nah, it's not like any other game and I can't tell you it's like any other game. I went to war with these guys for three years, I know them inside and out and they know me inside and out. We're not going to be surprising anybody with anything. Now it's time to see what happens in real life."

Speaking of surprises, Abou-Mechrek isn't surprised one bit with the Renegades turnaround and emergence in the East this season.

"I'm surprised we did so poorly last year, given the talent that we had," said Abou-Mechrek, noting a lot of the credit for keeping things together should go to head coach Joe Paopao. "We had some injuries and bad luck. We lost 26 starters on offence and defence and I know there's only 24 starters but even backups were getting hurt."

The Blue Bombers improved offensive line could have its hands full containing CFL sacks leader Anthony Collier, who tied a league record with five in a game and has eight overall, but they're up for the challenge.

"I can't say he's great at anything but he's good at everything he does," said Abou-Mechrek. "He's a beast out there. Their defence is doing some good things out there. They're making plays and like they should, they're walking around the way we were the other night, with their chests out. Our challenge is to take a little swagger out of their step and maybe knock some reality into them and say 'listen, we're here to play too.'"

In the Ottawa papers this week, Paopao reminded his players about the importance of winning this week and that the Renegades can't be thinking of the bye-week which lies ahead of them.

"I hope they're looking past us because if they do, they're in for a treat," said Abou-Mechrek, who was drafted 32nd overall by the Blue Bombers in 1999.

Jim Daley admits he may need to pull Abou-Mechrek aside for a discussion about dialing it down a notch and not letting his emotions get the better of him.

"Some guys play great against their former teams but sometimes they play too intense and it hurts them -- you can lose your priorities and your focus," said Daley. "Abou-Mechrek is wired anyway, so I'm going to have to speak to him. You want that, but you don't want him so wired up that he can't play."


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