TSN reporter Mark Masters was at Rogers Centre on Thursday, as the Toronto Argonauts practiced in preparation for Sunday's Eastern Final tilt with the Montreal Alouettes (TSN, Noon et/9am pt).
Defensive back Patrick Watkins has yet to practice this week after suffering an ankle injury in the Eastern Semi-Final. He is considered day-to-day.
"I feel for him, because Pat is one of our best DBs," said linebacker Brandon Isaac. "Unfortunately things don't look good for him right now."
The team's defensive backs coach, Orlondo Steinauer, describes his group as a "plug-and-play unit" meaning they should be able to survive if Watkins can't go on Sunday.
"That's how this defence is built," said Steinauer. "If someone goes down, somebody steps in. Evan McCollough started at three different positions for us, Pacino Horne's played boundary corner, [Jason] Pottinger started at Mike. It just doesn't matter. That's just how it's built. It's our preparation and execution of course."
On Thursday it was rookie Jalil Carter, currently on the practice roster, who took first-team reps at the boundary-corner spot. He played in just four games this season, but was in the lineup way back on July 27 when the Argos played in Montreal.
"We won that game so I'm feeling pretty confident," Carter said. "The only thing that I would say would be a problem would be the chemistry with the guys. If you've been playing together longer, of course, you know each other and can play off each other better, but I've been on the team the whole season so our defensive back corps, we're all really close. I'm not nervous at all going into this game."
TAKE OUT THE TRASH ... TALK
Both Marc Trestman and Scott Milanovich have warned their teams about spouting off this week.
"Yes, I did, twice now," the Argos coach confirmed on Thursday. "We're trying to stay humble and just play the game."
But once the game begins on Sunday tongues are bound to be wagging.
"They like to talk, but that's part of their game," said defensive end Ricky Foley. "I guess with the success they've had the last few years, I guess they deserve the right to talk. I'm not saying I'm not going to be pissed off about, I'm not saying I don't want to hit them in the mouth, but they kind of have the right to talk. Our goal on Sunday is to go in there and shut them up so next year when we play them they have nothing to say."
Foley and defensive tackle Kevin Huntley have, in the past, accused Alouette receivers S.J. Green and Jamel Richardson of knocking them over with "cheap, blind-side blocks" late in the 2010 Eastern Final. Both players say that is now water under the bridge and nothing similar has happened since.
But early in the 2011 season, Huntley was so upset he vowed to exact revenge on Richardson by picking him up and dropping on his head.
"I never had the opportunity," said Huntley. "You know, their plays are usually deep downfield and stuff like that and I'm pass rushing so I usually have one of the fat guys holding me so I could never get down there in time. Maybe I'll get an opportunity this weekend to hit him."
Huntley also believes the Alouettes needlessly ran up the score during the Eastern Final two years ago.
"Going into this game, of course the guys who were on that team, part of the game, we have a little bit extra on our heart and on our shoulders," he admitted on Wednesday.
Both Foley and Huntley insist revenge is not on their radar this week. However ...
"If they do revert back to cheap stuff then it opens the gate," said Foley. "I'm not a cheap player, but you go after me I'm going after you. That's just how I am."
BELLI'S BUCKET LIST
Toronto native Adriano Belli's face lights up when asked about the opportunity to play in a home Grey Cup.
"I'm old, I'm slow, beat up right now, but if I get a chance to play in the Grey Cup it will be all worth it," said the eccentric defensive lineman.
But that's not the only thing the recently-unretired 11-year veteran is hoping to accomplish for the first time.
"Anthony Calvillo is certainly the hardest guy to sack," said Belli. "He's the only quarterback I've never sacked. Every time I say, 'I'm going to hit him,' I never get to him so I'm just going to blow him a big kiss once the game starts and let the chips fall where they may."
Belli, meanwhile, insists he no longer has an axe to grind with any Alouettes. Three years ago, before the 2009 regular-season finale at the Rogers Centre, he entered the Alouettes locker room to confront players, whom he believed complained to the league about him. That earned him a one-game suspension.
All Belli would say about the Montreal-Toronto rivalry now is: "You know what? I've got a date for lunch on Sunday. It's a lunch date with five piggy offensive linemen. They're all great players and I can't wait to get after them."
TURN DOWN THE AC
The Argos have done a good job containing Anthony Calvillo this season as he completed just 56 of 102 passes (54.9%) in three games. He averaged 296 passing yards in the games while tossing the same amount of touchdowns as interceptions (four). So that should give Toronto's players some confidence, right?
"You can throw all that out the window," said Foley. "You start thinking you're going to stop AC that's just the wrong mindset. We're going in there with confidence. We're going in there knowing we can win, thinking we're going to win, but we're not going to sit here and say, 'Anthony Calvillo is only going to throw for 200 yards this game.' We're going in there to shut them down, but he's one of the best quarterbacks in the league."
That sentiment is shared by linebacker Marcus Ball.
"We haven't done a good enough job," said Ball. "I don't think so and the guys on defence don't think so. We lost two out of those three games and we feel like we have some good spots here and there, but we have a ways to work."
HOME FIELD DISADVANTAGE?
The Argos have practised with crowd noise this week at the Rogers Centre. However, Milanovich, who served on Montreal's coaching staff for five seasons before joining the Argos this year, claims the boisterous pro-Alouettes crowd may actually hurt the home team on Sunday.
"There were some times when the crowd noise was a little bit of an issue when [we] were on offence," the rookie head coach recalled. "I don't know if that's been rectified or not, but there were a couple short yardage situations where I remember it got louder than I wanted it to when I was there."
Huntley has his own theory for why the Montreal fans behave the way they do.
"Sometimes the crowd may have been drinking all morning long so they may not understand that their team is on offence," he joked. "Maybe it will hurt them, hopefully it does, because I wouldn't mind a couple offsides and stuff like that so we'll see."