Argos aim to be offensive 0
Argos receiver/kick returner Chad Owens hams it up during the club's mini-camp in Mississauga on April 28, 2012. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI Agency)
Of course it wasn't his intent, but Scott Milanovich, the Toronto Argonauts' new head coach, broke up the crowd hanging around the club's mini-camp on Saturday afternoon.
"You guys are in s....y shape," Milanovich screamed to his veteran quarterbacks and receivers during workouts at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus. "You guys are in crappy shape. You better start running."
To the untrained eye, it seemed the guys on the field - new QB's Ricky Ray and Jarious Jackson, and the receiving corps - looked pretty good for the first day of outdoor training.
But veteran receiver/kick returner Chad Owens understood perfectly where Milanovich was coming from. It's the old 'change of scenery' deal. The Argos finished last in the CFL East last season with a 6-12 record. This year, with a new head coach and two new experienced QBs, the veterans in particular are determined to climb out of the basement and do some damage. Of course, there's the extra incentive of hosting the 100th Grey Cup - a point not lost on Owens.
"You know what man?" the third-year Argo said. "You've always got to want more. If we were Grey Cup champions last year, it would be no different. We're still going to be out of shape (in the coach's eyes). He still has to demand more. That's the job of a head coach, that's the job of every coach ... you've got to demand more of your players, because if you don't, they relax, and that's the truth. We're human. If we don't get pushed, if we think we're doing everything right, then we just start coasting."
One of the key points Milanovich made to the media afterwards was, with Ray and Jackson at QB this season, there will be no excuses - the offence is expected to rise above last season's misery and prove to the Argos faithful that this is a team that, despite their recent, dismal history (one playoff appearance in the last four years), can challenge for the Grey Cup. Owens - a CFL all-star in his two seasons in Toronto - believes the changes at the coaching level and at QB signal an entire new dynamic for the team.
"In the past couple of years, our defence and special teams have controlled games," said the former University of Hawaii standout. "(But) it's an offensive game. Your offence has to control the game and that's what we're going to do.
"It's very exciting," he added. "The offence (controlling games) takes some of the pressure off the defence and special teams. Now we can all compliment each other.
"These are two great established quarterbacks," Owens added, when asked about Ray and Jackson. "Two guys who have done it, two guys who have done it well. In years past, I guess we've had less experienced quarterbacks - not to say that they weren't good. But it takes experience. And with experience, you can move faster, you can do a lot more things. The pace is what I love. If we can move at a fast pace, we can control the game."
For Ray, who was traded to the Argos from Edmonton in December for QB Steven Jyles, kicker Grant Shaw and Toronto's first pick in the 2012 CFL Canadian draft, the immediate focus is to settle quickly into a new environment, with a new team - though he does have the luxury of being able to throw to former teammates Jason Barnes and Maurice Mann. Further to that, the Argos' new QBs coach, Jason Maas, is an old teammate from his Edmonton days.
"That definitely helps," said Ray, who threw for 4,594 yards and 24 TDs last season. "The more people you know when you come to a new place, the more it makes you feel comfortable."
The biggest bonus, said Ray, is having Maas - the QB who took Ray under his wing when he joined the Eskimos in 2002 - around.
"He's been a big part of my career," said Ray. "When I first came into this league, he helped me develop and gave me a lot of confidence as a player. It's nice to have a relationship with somebody (like that), because you feel like you can ask questions and just be up front and honest. But at the same time, it's going to be different. He's my boss. He's going to be yelling at me, screaming at me, keeping me motivated and making sure that I'm doing what I need to do out there."
Sort of like Milanovich and his 'out of shape' diatribe.