Blue ready for Ricky

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

The time many of you who worship at NFL shrines have been waiting for is almost at hand.

The Toronto Argonauts come to town to face the Blue Bombers when they play their CFL home opener at Canad Inns Stadium. With ex-NFL tailback Ricky Williams in tow. Let the bowing begin.

As most of you know by now, the Miami Dolphins gave the Boatmen special permission to sign Williams, who is not only under NFL suspension for multiple drug-related offences but is still under contract to the Dolphins. And if any member of the CFL dares to criticize that leap through contract loopholes, it will cost him upwards of $5,000 (hello Don Matthews).

But the bottom line is that Williams will be dressed in Double Blue Friday and those looking at their own bottom lines will be rubbing their hands together in glee.

"I hope that draws more fans, we definitely need the revenue," Bombers GM Brendan Taman said recently. "We're paying six more guys full salaries and that makes our bean counters a little itchy."

The CFL expanded its game-day rosters to 42 players (from 40), plus a four-man reserve and a seven-man practice roster this year. The six extra to get full salaries are the added two and the four-man reserve.

Although opposing defences will be hyped to stop Williams, there is more to the Argos than the man once known for smoking giant doobies.

"Ricky Williams won't beat you by himself, he will be part of a team that will beat you," Taman said. "And he's good.

"Hamilton did a pretty good job in their exhibition games of curtailing him but I don't think they did it by keying on Ricky Williams. They had to key on (quarterback) Damon Allen and (slotback) Arland Bruce and (wide receiver) Robert Baker."

While opposing defences will likely be very aware of Williams, his mere presence in the Toronto backfield is also expected to stimulate aging quarterback Damon Allen, who once dreamt of playing in the NFL.

The Toronto defence, among the best in the CFL last season, will also serve as another test for Winnipeg's new-look offence that no longer relies solely on tailback Charles (Blink) Roberts and veteran slotback Milt Stegall to lead the way.

Roberts, however, will also likely be jacked to play on the same field as Williams and will be determined to out-rush him for not only this game but for the entire season.

And if the presence of Williams can make the Bombers better, their fans will lap it up.

New middle linebacker Barrin Simpson certainly sounds like he's ready to take on a player many people consider to be too good for the CFL.

"Tough? It's not going to be tough at all," Simpson said. "It's just a matter of going out there and when he gets the ball, you go get it. That's my job. That's what I get paid for, to go out there and just punish running backs. That's what I look forward to doing. When we put them pads on, the name of the game is hitting. If a team can run the ball on you, why pass it? So our plan is to go out there and stop the run, make sure we stuff it and get after him."

"I don't care who's carrying the ball. When he gets the rock, it's my job to go get it. That's the way I play the game. I have no friends out there. I don't give anybody any respect. Respect is earned out there on the field."


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