TORONTO -- The time for talking is over, and it's time to play football.
Wait a sec, Charles Roberts has one last thing to say.
"We're one of the last four standing, and we're going to win the game," the Winnipeg Blue Bombers tailback said yesterday. "That's all I got to say."
Roberts actually wasn't done talking about today's East Division final against the Toronto Argonauts at Rogers Centre (noon, CBC/CJOB). In fact, he went on to guarantee a Bombers victory two more times.
"We're definitely going to be back (in Toronto) on Tuesday," he said.
Roberts avoided the media for three days earlier this week at the urging of veteran slotback Milt Stegall and head coach Doug Berry. He really had to bite his tongue after Argos linebacker Kevin Eiben guaranteed the Bombers wouldn't score more than 10 points today.
"Had I not been given instructions by my coach earlier in the week ... because before that statement even came out, I was already ready to get it started," Roberts said with one of his trademark sly smiles.
He was cornered yesterday in the bowels of the team hotel, however, and it all spilled out of the 5-foot-6, 171-pound tailback.
"It's a team's destiny to win a championship," he said, "and because we've been working so long, it's our destiny to win a championship."
Roberts' guarantee should come as good news for the other five Bombers who played in the Grey Cup in 2001 and haven't been back since. A victory today would put Winnipeg in the big game next Sunday, also at Rogers Centre, against either the B.C. Lions or Saskatchewan Roughriders, who will meet in today's West final (CBC, 3:30 p.m.).
Defensive tackle Doug Brown was a CFL rookie in 2001, so he figured he would be making annual trips to the big dance.
"The only appreciation I have taken from that game that stays with me is how wrong I was thinking, 'Oh! This is my first year. I'll be here every year.' But no, it's been a long time," Brown said.
Roberts, also in his first season six years ago, had the same thoughts as Brown, but the harsh reality of the last five seasons -- two of which ended without so much as a playoff berth -- have him reminiscing.
"I think about it a lot, and I hope I don't have to play 13 years like Milt to get (a) Cup," Roberts said. "It's a tough situation when you go and lose, and you think you have a great team and you're never to be seen again.
"It's been a long, tough six years, but I think everything's in place right now, and we've done a good job of getting back to the top."
The Bombers, however, must focus on the red-hot Argos before they can even dream about the Grey Cup. Toronto, which finished a point ahead of Winnipeg and won two of their three meetings, has won seven in a row, nine of its last 10 and is a seven-point favourite today.
Argos receiver Arland Bruce III, who was with Winnipeg when it lost the 2001 final to Calgary, isn't overly concerned about the playoff drought.
"Do I feel sorry for 'em? Not at all," he said. "They're grown men. They can get over it. They can deal with it.
"... We know what we have to do. The ultimate goal is to get another championship."
Roberts' victory vow was the perfect bookend to a week that started with Eiben's declaration. Although Eiben didn't guarantee a win, you knew what he was getting at.
Roberts even referenced Eiben's pledge.
"I don't think he was saying we're a bad team," Roberts said. "He was just saying that he has confidence in their defence and what they could do. I'm confident in our offence and what we can do.
"I'm confident in our entire team, and whether it's 10 points, five points or 30 points, we're going to win the game."