VANCOUVER — Banners will be raised and there’s a pretty good chance a CFL record will be broken.
Other than that, it should be business as usual inside BC Place on Friday night as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers try to show they can keep up with the elite as they face the B.C.Lions, the team that defeated them in the 99th Grey Cup last November.
The Grey Cup banner is sure to be a reminder of what might have been in 2011, though the Blue Bombers have been diligent to say it’s a new season and that game has no meaning on what’s going to happen moving forward.
“This is obviously a new season, a new book and this is the first chapter in that book,” said Blue Bombers left tackle Glenn January, who was on the field and plans to be in the starting lineup on Friday. “We can’t let things that happened last season influence our decision-making process on the field.”
The Blue Bombers enter the game as significant underdogs, but that’s a role they fully embrace.
“Coming off the season we had last year, no one is giving us credit for anything we’ve proven,” said Blue Bombers defensive back Jovon Johnson. “We deserve more, but at the end of the day, we cherish the role and our guys thrive off it it. It’s a role we’ve had for a long time.”
“I don’t feel like we get enough respect, but we didn’t get enough respect last year until we started beating teams, started winning and playing dominating football,” added Blue Bombers defensive back Jonathan Hefney. “That’s what we try to do, go out and earn our respect every year. It’s Week 1 and you’re trying to send a message every game we play.”
The Lions are singing a similar tune and focusing on the present, though receiver Arland Bruce has already stated publicly that he can’t see why an 18-0 season is possible.
“Good for him, I’ve got 1-0 on my mind. That’s the only one I care about,” said Lions head coach Mike Benevides, who takes over from Wally Buono. “As I told the men in training camp, the focus is on the here and now. It’s about the present. You can’t worry about what happened in the past or about next week.”
Does Benevides have a problem with a player making such a bold proclamation?
“It doesn’t bother me at all, you want them to be confident,” said Benevides. “Unless it’s a distraction, then I’ll address it. If not, you want them to walk on the field expecting to win. But there’s got to be a sense of humility along the way too.”
As for that record, former Blue Bomber Geroy Simon enter’s Friday’s game just 66 yards behind Milt Stegall for first in CFL all-time receiver yards.
Stegall will be on hand, along with CFL commissioner Mark Cohon and should the record be broken, the game will be stopped for a few minutes for a league presentation.
“Yeah, I’m expecting to get it done but I’m not going to try and force anything,” said Simon. “Milt is someone I really look up to and he’s been a positive influence on me for a long time. To have him in the building is definitely going to be an honour and I’m excited about it.
“It’s something that’s big-time. You try to downplay it but this league has been around 100 years and to be No. 1 all-time is definitely an accomplishment and something I’m proud about. It not only shows the skills as an athlete but the hard work you put in. And the longevity that you’ve been able to maintain over the years.”
The Lions plan to honour Simon prior to next week’s game, should the record be broken.
Winnipegger Andrew Harris is expecting to play a big role in the Lions offence this season and believes 1,000 yards rushing is a legitimate possibility.
“That’s in the back of my mind for sure, I’m looking forward to try to work towards that,” said Harris, who was the Most Outstanding Canadian in the 99th Grey Cup. “There are different goals for me, last year I came into the year as a backup and obviously this year being a starter there’s a different mindset for me. I’m just trying to make an impact, like I always have been and be that every down back that we need. That’s my biggest goal, to help this team get to another Grey Cup.”