‘I took it personal’: Argos’ Harris set to face old team as Bombers visit Toronto
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Andrew Harris has always played with a chip on his shoulder.
The Toronto Argonauts star running back did his best to keep that motivation in check leading up to the first game against his former team.
But there’s little doubt it will grow exponentially every time Harris touches the ball when facing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (3-0) at BMO Field on Monday.
“I’m trying to focus on it being another game and not build it up too, too much,” Harris told The Canadian Press in a phone interview. “Once I see my old teammates, I’ll get a little more fired up. But right now, I’m just locked in on helping Toronto win.
“I don’t want to get too emotional.”
Harris signed with Toronto (1-1) as a free agent after he felt disrespected by Winnipeg management when the CFL club signed fellow Canadian running backs Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine ahead of dealing with the three-time Grey Cup champion.
“I just wanted clarity,” said Harris, who added he never did get an explanation. “I’m a big boy and I understand they’ve got two younger guys who are very capable.
“This business is a tough one.”
The situation raised eyebrows — at least from the outside — considering Harris helped the Bombers win consecutive titles in 2019 and 2021.
In five years with his hometown club, the five-foot-10, 202-pound back became just the fifth player in CFL history to surpass 15,000 yards from scrimmage and is only 225 yards shy of becoming the sixth CFL rusher to reach the 10,000.
“At the time, I took it personal and was real mad,” said Harris, 35. “But that ship has sailed and I’m happy to be a part of the Toronto Argonauts organization.”
Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie expects Harris to play like he’s been shot out of cannon Monday.
“He’ll be fired up on game day and I’m sure (the Bombers) will be fired up because they don’t want to lose to an ex-teammate,” he told Toronto reporters. “In sports, that’s the nature of the business.”
Harris has kept in touch with many of the Bombers.
“The cliche thing to say is that we’re just playing Toronto, but Andrew meant a lot to this organization, so it will be nice to see him,” said Winnipeg quarterback Zach Collaros. “Everybody loved Andrew. He’s a fiery guy, but trust me, we’ve got a lot of guys who bring a lot of energy.”
And fans can expect some heavy collisions during the contest.
“If he’s my guy, he’s my guy. And if I hit him, I hit him,” said Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill. “He knows that and he wouldn’t want anything less from us.”
Harris relishes such physical play.
“I can bring the wood, too,” he said. “It’s fun.”
The Argos will need to bring the wood to rebound from a devastating 44-3 loss to the Lions in B.C. last week.
“I’ve never in my career been a part of a beatdown like that,” said Harris, who has rushed for just 114 yards on 25 carries, with two fumbles (one lost), in two games with Toronto. “We just have to be more physical and pay more attention to detail.
“And what better way to rebound than to beat the defending Grey Cup champs?”
The Bombers, however, are aware Toronto has other weapons.
“They’ve got a whole cast of receivers that can be productive with the ball and (Argos quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson) can make big plays,” Bighill said. “He’s shown it. He can launch the ball down the field, he can make good reads. He can buy himself time in the pocket. He’s a good quarterback.
“So, by no means is it just gonna be Andrew out there. We’ve got to focus on their entire offence.”
HARRIS HISTORY: The last time Harris lined up against Winnipeg was Oct. 10, 2015, at B.C. Place Stadium when he was playing for the Lions.
NO DEMSKI: The Bombers will be without slotback Nic Demski (ankle), who was placed on the six-game injury list. Fellow Canadian receiver Brendan O’Leary-Orange will likely start in his place. Winnipeg also placed centre Michael Couture (arm) on the six-game list, which means Chris Kolankowski will start.
HASHMARKS: The Bombers defence has allowed only one touchdown in three games. The Argos have scored one offensive TD in eight quarters. … Toronto has decided to employ backup quarterback Chris Kelly on short yardage situations after several failures to convert last week. … The Argo posted a 1-1 record versus Winnipeg last season, winning 30-23 in Toronto.
This report was first published by The Canadian Press on July 3, 2022.