REGINA -- Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant and defensive end Odell Willis are ready to hear some sour notes in Sunday's Banjo Bowl.
The CFL veterans expect to be the receiving end of some trash talking from fans when the Riders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers meet in the back end of the home-and-home series. Sunday's game marks the first time that Durant and Willis will be on the same team for the Banjo Bowl. They are expecting similar reactions from the Blue Bombers fans, but for different reasons.
Durant raised the ire of Winnipeg's fans and the blood pressure of former head coach Ken Miller when he got involved in some trash talking towards the end of a 45-23 victory over the Blue Bombers in 2011. Durant will not allow that to happen again.
"I won't fall into the trap that they set for me last year,'' Durant said Friday. "It was a trap that was laid out there and I just stepped right into it. It was fun while it lasted. You can ask other guys around the league. I think (B.C.'s) Arland Bruce tweeted something about Winnipeg fans a couple of weeks ago when they were out there. I won't fall into it.''
Willis expects to hear it from the fans after being traded to the Riders during the 2012 off-season. One of the reasons the Blue Bombers cited for trading Willis was he didn't want to play for them. Willis said he was prepared to return to the Blue Bombers, especially with the opportunity to play in a new stadium, the opening of which has been delayed until 2013.
"I expect to hear everything and they've already started on Twitter,'' said Willis, who was a CFL all-star in 2011. "It doesn't bother me because I like the attention. If they are talking to me and saying things, I feel like I'm doing something pretty good. They already started on the social networks, so why not? I hope they have a whole bunch. They can focus on me instead of trash talking the rest of the team.''
Durant said he will try to block out the fans, but knows that's easier said than done.
"Fans do a lot of research and they come up with something that may have happened to you back in the '90s,'' said Durant, who is 2-1 in the Banjo Bowl as the starting quarterback. "They have clues about it. When people say the wrong things or push buttons, sometimes you can't help but respond, but I'm not going to let it get to me. It's all about going into that place and getting a win.''
Willis said that he was unaware of Durant's trash talking last year until seeing the clip on TSN. Willis added that he likes to see his quarterback getting into it with the fans.
"That fires me up,'' Willis said. "To see my quarterback or one of my offensive linemen not backing down or see any of my teammates standing up for themselves gets me motivated. If you want to pick on my teammate, my brother or a member of my family, I have to pick on you. You're not going let anyone disrespect your family.''
Much of the fans' displeasure may be aimed at the Blue Bombers, who are 2-7.
Blue Bombers general manager Joe Mack has been in the crosshairs and addressed the media on Thursday for the first time since Sunday's loss. Among the reasons Mack cited for the Blue Bombers' 2012 collapse was the team was still recovering from the death of Richard Harris, the popular defensive line coach.
"We got over that during the season,'' said Willis, adding that his return to Winnipeg for the first time will be bittersweet. "He was a real father figure to me and he's still an important person to me. Still, it's no excuse for what's going on right now."
-- Regina Leader-Post