There is no doubt about his fervour – Chad Owens wants to get back onto the gridiron again and win with his red-hot Toronto Argonauts.
But whether he will get that opportunity Friday, in the first game of a crucial home-and-home series against the archrival Hamilton Tiger-Cats, won’t be revealed until game time.
“Hopefully, they give me a chance,” Owens said Thursday. “We’ll see tomorrow. I just want to play football, but at the same time, I’m not going to put the team in jeopardy.”
The dynamic kick returner/receiver has missed the past four games after suffering bruised ribs against the Montreal Alouettes on Sept. 3, and he has been itching to return to the field.
Despite Owens’s absence, he remains as one of the special-teams league leaders in combined return yards, ranking third overall with 1,001. If Owens is given the green light, the Ticats will be ready for him.
“We better know where he is,” Hamilton head coach Kent Austin said, adding he expects Owens to play. “Because they will feed him the football if he’s in the game. … Chad’s a great player.”
This home-and-home is crucial for the Ticats (6-7), who can’t afford two losses if they want to sustain hope of catching the East Division-leading Argos (9-4), the reigning Grey Cup champions.
In the final game of the 2012 regular season, the Argos defeated the Ticats with a game-winning, 51-yard field goal with no time left on the clock, abolishing Hamilton’s postseason aspirations.
“We’re in a much better position than last year, where it was win-and-you’re-in and lose-and-you’re-out,” Ticats quarterback Henry Burris said. “But as far as the importance of this game, it definitely has that same feel.
“I think from last year, with the Argos beating us three out of four in last-second fashion, and the same thing happened this year, this game definitely carries the same approach.”
The last time the Argos and Ticats clashed was in the season opener on June 28, a game in which Toronto rallied to secure a come-from-behind win with the help of quarterback Ricky Ray, who threw for four touchdowns and 368 yards.
Ray (shoulder) was activated from the injury list Thursday, but isn’t ready to start just yet, Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said. Pregame routines and wristband reviews still need to be addressed.
“He’s at about 85-per-cent strength in his arm,” Milanovich said. “But if he needs to play tomorrow, he can play.”
With Ray still at least one week away from starting, it will be up to Zach Collaros to again lead his team.
On Thursday, Collaros was named the CFL offensive player of the month for September, after he completed 65 per cent of his passes for 1,299 yards and nine touchdowns. But the CFL sophomore has yet to face Hamilton.
“They are very good at disguising coverages,” Collaros said. “That’s going to be huge for me to decipher what they’re doing to get the ball to the guys. They also have a great pass-rush, so, up front, we’re going to have to be solid.”
The Argos are aiming to extend their win streak to five games in what will be an exciting battle between the Southern Ontario squads.
“This is a big game for both sides,” Owens said. “It’s a rivalry and a game that could potentially clinch first place in the East. There is a lot riding on it.”