TORONTO — If rookie defensive back Jalil Carter is nervous about facing the Calgary Stampeders’ speedy air attack, he wasn’t showing it Saturday on the eve of the Grey Cup game.
The 23-year-old Toronto Argonaut will likely spend much of the day covering red-hot Calgary receiver Maurice Price, who will take four straight 100-yard games into the CFL championship game on Sunday at Rogers Centre.
That drew a shrug from Carter.
”I’ve been playing football since I was seven,” he said. ”It’s a lot of hype.
”It’s a huge game. But at the end of the day, it’s one more football game. I’ve played a million in my life and it’s just one more.”
That is not how the CFL sees it as it celebrates the 100th Grey Cup in Canada’s largest city with a sold out, 50,000-seat stadium that should mostly be cheering for the home side.
But Carter feels ready for the test after putting in a solid effort in an upset 27-20 win in Montreal in the East Division final last week.
The Argonauts had hoped the six-foot-five Patrick Watkins’ sore left ankle would heal in time for the Grey Cup, but coach Scott Milanovich didn’t even wait to Sunday to make the decision to scratch him off the roster.
”It just wasn’t healing fast enough,” said Milanovich. ”Pat’s a team player and he wasn’t about to put his teammates at risk if he wasn’t 100 per cent.
”We have a ton of confidence in Jalil. He played well last week. He’s played in big games. We expect him to do a great job.”
The Toronto defence will be tested by a Calgary attack led by crafty veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn, a scrambler who will run with the ball when he has a chance.
The Stampeders also have the league’s top rusher in Jon Cornish and a array of receivers that has Price, who has been dominant since returning from injury late in the season, as well as veterans Nik Lewis and Romby Bryant.
They key to their passing game is speed.
”But we have a lot of speed, too,” said Carter. ”We’re looking forward to the matchups.
”It’s going to be a good game. I wouldn’t say it’ll be a track meet, but we’re going to be moving. Both sides.”
Veteran safety Jordan Younger has confidence in Carter.
”He’s a solid athlete and defensive back,” he said. ”We just had depth this year and he was waiting for his opportunity to play. He’ll be fine.”
With the Toronto Maple Leafs locked out of NHL play, the Argonauts have seen fans jump back onto their bandwagon for the historic Grey Cup, so the players are doing their best to stay calm.
The backs have a ritual on the days before games where the defensive backs go up into the stands for a chat with defensive backfield coach Orlander Steinhauer. The message this time was about staying focused on the game.
But they’re enjoying it just the same.
”I’ve been here with some big crowds, but never every seat full,” said Younger. ”This is Candyland, Fantasyland, for us right now. And we just want to make the most of this opportunity.”
Even Milanovich has noticed Torontonians walking around in Argonauts jerseys, a rare sight most of the year.
”I live downtown so it’s something that’s new to me,” he said. The Argos will also have defensive tackle, chief trash talker and opponent-baiter Adriano Belli in the line-up. The veteran missed two practices this week with a flu, but was back on Saturday.
A few players seemed to be under the weather this week, but Milanovich is not worried that they won’t be at their best when the game starts.
He recalled that when he was offensive co-ordinator in Montreal two years ago, all-star guard Scott Flory was sick in the week before the game but then played well once it started.
”In a game of this magnitude, they find a way to play,” he said.