TORONTO — Nestled in the corner of the Toronto Argonauts dressing room, Chad Owens sucked in a deep breath and started to pull his jersey and shoulder pads off in one slow, painful motion.
A painful blow to his side suffered during the game didn’t make burrowing out of his tight equipment any easier.
The tattooed Argonaut all-purpose receiver took his lumps in a disappointing 39-28 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders at the Rogers Centre on Thursday night.
There was the play that knocked the wind out of him. Then Owens was victimized by a late hit late in the second quarter on a kickoff return that produced an unnecessary roughness flag near the Saskatchewan bench. The irate Hawaiian got up pointing his finger and found himself facing a posse of Riders before some teammates rushed back to even up the numbers.
“I don’t know what he did, but it was it was extra. But that’s Diamond Ferri,” Owens said, referencing the Riders linebacker called on the play. “That’s what he does. He’s been doing it his whole career. You love his tenacity when you’re on his team but you hate all the extra stuff when you’re not on his team.
“I was with him in Montreal so I understand his type of play. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good football player. And I’m not just pointing, singling him out. There was some jawing going back and forth. Like I said out there on the field after the game, I’m all for good hard-nosed football, I’m down with that. But when you start doing extra stuff, that just pisses me off.”
Was it dirty, he was asked?
“It is what it is,” Owens replied. “I’m not going to call anyone dirty. They’re going to play to the whistle, they’re going to do what they feel is necessary to get the job done, to finish the play.”
Both teams drew penalties and fingers can be pointed both ways. Toronto earned 11 flags for 68 yards while Saskatchewan was penalized nine times for 79 yards.
There were late hits, high hits and horse-collar tackles. It was a tough night to be a receiver with Owens and Toronto teammates Dontrelle Inman and Andre Durie needed attention as the game wore on.
Owens said he had to be better in the return game, to provide his team improved field position.
But the stats sheets suggests he played his part: eight catches for 85 yards, five kickoff returns for 102 yards and four punt returns for 19 yards.
One thing he was sure off. The five-foot-eight 180-pounder will wake up hurting.
“The first three weeks were three physical weeks,” he said of games against Hamilton, B.C. and Saskatchewan.
As is his want, Argos coach Scott Milanovich wanted to see the film before passing too much judgment. But he allowed more work was needed.
“We’ve played three very good teams,” he said. “Saskatchewan’s a good team. They deserved to win tonight. But we’ve been here before. Our guys will be just fine. They’ll rally and continue to go to work and will improve over the course of the season.”
While the Argo offence struggled in the second quarter to string a drive together, its defence was burned for two big pass plays to Taj Smith – 61 and 70 yards around either side of halftime.
Quarterback Ricky Ray, who competed his first 12 pass attempts, sat glumly at his locker despite having completed 27 of 37 passes for 334 yards and two TDs.
The Argos, he said, weren’t doing enough of the little things that have to be done.
“Any time you lose, you’re so down and frustrated. All the plays are going through your mind on what you could have done better,” he acknowledged.
“That’s what Coach (Milanovich) reminds us. It’s a long season. It’s 18 games and if you get down too much, let things lingers, that’s when bad things are going to start happening.”