Not long ago, redemption would’ve fuelled Ricky Foley when facing a former team.
But at age 31 and in his eighth CFL season, the flamboyant defensive end says he’s learned how to harness that energy and use it to his advantage.
Foley expects to experience a myriad of emotions Thursday night when the Saskatchewan Roughrider face the Toronto Argonauts at Rogers Centre. The six-foot-three, 258-pound Foley played three seasons with the Argos and helped the squad win a Grey Cup title last year before signing with the Riders as a free agent.
“If I was younger it probably might not have been the best thing,” Foley said Wednesday. “I’m a vet now so I know how to control it but it’s going to be emotional and I’m going to feed off that and play well.
“We came in (Wednesday) night . . . I used to live down here and we drove by my condo. It’s tough but something I’m looking forward to.”
Rider fans will have to continue waiting for slotback Geroy Simon’s season debut. Head coach Corey Chamblin said Simon won’t play against the Argos because of a lower-body injury.
The Roughriders acquired Simon, 37, in an off-season trade with the B.C. Lions but he has yet to play for his new team. Simon is the CFL’s all-time receiving yards leader (15,787) and needs 29 catches to break Ben Cahoon’s league record of 1,017.
But Foley has two reasons to look forward to his game at Rogers Centre since Toronto’s Grey Cup win over Calgary last November.
He’ll be able to renew acquaintances with many of his former teammates and also receive his Grey Cup ring from Argos GM Jim Barker, who opted to present it to Foley personally rather than simply mail it to him.
“That’s nice,” Foley said. “Me and Barker were pretty close when I was here and I really appreciate him doing that.
“That will be just another little emotional thing you have to conquer before the game. Got to be a vet, got to lock in, got to go out there and win this game.”
Foley began his CFL career with B.C. after the Lions selected the native of Courtice, Ont., fourth overall in 2006 out of York University. He was named the league’s top Canadian in ‘09 after posting a career-high 12 sacks before signing with Toronto as a free agent.
But Foley had just 10 sacks over three seasons with the Argos. Last year, he had 35 tackles and three sacks before adding four tackles and a sack in the Grey Cup to be named the game’s top Canadian.
Foley’s job in Toronto defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones’s scheme was more than just rush the passer. He was also required to sometimes drop back into pass coverage like an outside linebacker.
With Saskatchewan, he’s being employed in a more traditional role coming off the edge although he has four tackles but no sacks this season.
“Defence is defence, at the end of the day you’re told to do a job, you get paid to do a job so you have to go out there and do it,” Foley said. “But I definitely do enjoy my job a little bit more now, I think I contribute more to the team.
“But as I’ve said, I’m pretty grateful for last year with what coach Jones did and what the rest of the staff did because we won a Grey Cup. You can’t complain.”
Argos slotback Andre Durie, a longtime friend of Foley’s from their university days at York, is expecting his former teammate to play with a chip on his shoulder.
“He plays with his heart and a lot of passion so I expect him to really come out and want to prove a point and win the game,” Durie said. “That’s the type of player he is, he wears his heart on his sleeve.
“He was a good leader when he was here and for us we just have to go out there and play our game and continue to focus on what we do best.”
And Foley has a little bit of a score to settle with Durie.
“We’ve gone against each other on special teams when I was in B.C. and his first year he caught me on punt one time,” Foley said. “I thought I had beat him but he blew me up so I guess I have to pay him back.
“But I consider him a brother . . . we’d do anything for each other and that’s family to me. His family is my family and vice versa.”
Chamblin has no worries about Foley allowing emotion to get the best of him against his former team.
“It’s a former team but that’s in the past,” Chamblin said. “He’s green and white now and that’s what he has to look at.
“I’ve been on like five former teams here so I’d be emotional every time I coached up here. It’s time to move on. He’ll see his friends and after the first quarter it will be about green and white and I think he’ll take that next step.”
Saskatchewan (2-0) comes in as the CFL’s only unbeaten team following an impressive 36-21 win over Calgary. Although Toronto (1-1), dropped a 24-16 road decision to B.C. last week, the Argos boast the league’s second-ranked offence, averaging 365.5 net yards.
“They’re a good offence,” Chamblin said. “There’s a reason they were in a Grey Cup last year but we faced a good offence last week against Calgary so it will be a good test for us and our defence.”
Saskatchewan running back Kory Sheets is off to a great start, having rushed for more than 100 yards in both of his teams games thus far. Sheets already has 26 runs of five or more yards in 2013 and has definitely caught the eye of Argos head coach Scott Milanovich.
“You talk about elite players and I believe he is but I thought that a year ago to be honest,” Milanovich said. “He can do just about anything you want him to do.
“He can catch passes, he can run with breakaway speed, he can be patient and run zones and pick his hole. He’s one of the best in our league for sure.”
NOTES: Milanovich said Toronto kicker Noel Prefontaine wasn’t with the club Tuesday because his wife gave birth to a daughter, the couple’s third child. Prefontaine is expected to play Thursday night.