Alexandre Gauthier knows a thing or two about playing at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers left tackle also knows a thing or two about one of the Edmonton Eskimos' newest defensive ends, Rahim Abdullah.
Gauthier and Abdullah spent the last two seasons going head-to-head in practice as members of the Calgary Stampeders. Tomorrow night they will see more of each other when the Bombers and Eskimos meet in the season-opener for both squads (8:30 p.m., CJOB/TSN).
Abdullah has been known to do a little trash talking in his time, but Gauthier won't be bringing ear plugs to the Alberta capital.
"I'm not listening when he's talking," Gauthier said with a chuckle yesterday. "I've been listening to him for the last two years in the locker-room, so I'm not paying attention to what he's going to say."
Abdullah appeared to be on his way to retirement after the Stamps decided to not re-sign him in the off-season. The Eskimos, however, sent out an SOS two weeks ago, and he will be their starting rush end tomorrow.
"It's going to be a good fight," Gauthier said. "I know him, and he knows me. That's going to be interesting."
The Bombers believe they know what they got in Gauthier when they traded Garrick Jones for him in February, but they have yet see him actually play in Blue and Gold.
Gauthier practised for the first two days of training camp before suffering a hamstring pull that forced him to miss the team's two pre-season games. The 6-foot-7, 307-pound monster finally returned to the practice field on Sunday and yesterday proclaimed himself ready to go.
"I feel fresh, and I feel ready," he said. "I did work a lot on my footwork, so I guess it's going to be all right."
He better be all right, because his primary responsibility is to protect quarterback Kevin Glenn's blind side. Considering there's a gigantic question mark surrounding Winnipeg's backup pivot situation this season, keeping Glenn upright is priority No. 1.
Missing two weeks of practice and both pre-season games shouldn't affect Gauthier, according to head coach Doug Berry, because a left tackle isn't too involved in blocking schemes.
Basically, as long as Glenn's head is still attached to his body at the end of tomorrow's game, consider Gauthier's job well done.
Gauthier has high hopes for the Bombers offensive line, which has been the bane of the team's existence since 2002. Gauthier, the first overall pick in the 2002 draft, and right guard Andrew Greene, the 2003 CFL offensive lineman of the year, add credibility to a starting five that already included centre Obby Khan, left guard Matt Sheridan and right tackle Dan Goodspeed.
Khan, however, will miss tomorrow's game due to an intestinal problem.
"Right now we look good on paper," Gauthier said. "Now we need to prove what we can do, and I'm sure we're going to do great this year."