TORONTO — - Defensive lineman Israel Idonije expects ear-ringing crowd support from the Rogers Centre throng when he and his Chicago Bears meet the Buffalo Bills Nov. 7 in Toronto.
And not just because he was raised in Canada, either.
Told that both the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets enjoyed significant fan backing during the previous two NFL regular-season games played in Toronto, Idonije said he does not feel it will be any different this time around, even though the contest officially appears as a Bills home game on the NFL schedule.
“In the entire league, Bears fans might be the best travelling fans,” Idonije said Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the NFL officially revealed that Chicago would be this year’s regular-season visitors for the annual Bills In Toronto Series. “It’s like that wherever we go — Arizona, anywhere. It’s incredible. And I don’t expect anything less (in Toronto). With it being like a neutral site, I expect lots of (Bears) fans.”
Idonije only hopes the result on the scoreboard is more favourable than the previous time he played at the Rogers Centre.
Back in 2001, the Nigerian-born, Canadian-raised Idonije and his University of Manitoba Bisons came to Toronto to meet the Saint Mary’s Huskies in the Vanier Cup, with national bragging rights on the line.
Four quarters later, they dejectedly trudged off the field after being whipped 42-16 by their foes from the Maritimes.
“The tough part was losing,” he said. “Other than that, the entire experience was larger than life. The game, the preparation, the entire week leading up to the game, everything was great except the score.”
Idonije, who grew up in Brandon, Man. after his family moved from Africa, did not start playing football until Grade 12. Now he finds himself on a Bears defence that snapped up the jewel of the off-season free agent crop in pass rushing specialist Julius Peppers.
“It shows the commitment we have,” he said. “We have not lived up to the expectations held for the Chicago Bears defence. Now we have the mindset that we have to get it done.”
Bills coach Chan Gailey expects the game to be a bruising affair.
“I know it will be physical,” Gailey said. “If you like hard-hitting, smash mouth football, come see the Bears in Toronto.”
With the game being played about a month earlier in the season than the two previous Bills In Toronto regular-season contests, Gailey was asked if he would like to see the Rogers Centre lid peeled back.
“If it’s a beautiful day, I hope it’s open,” Gailey said. “If it’s nasty out, I hope it’s closed.”