Argos in Wyn-now mode with star linebacker McManis back for Sunday’s East Final


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There will be no restrictions, no limits and no one knows what kind of presence Wynton McManis will have in Sunday’s East Final against the Montreal Alouettes.

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The Argonauts’ star linebacker was playing at a high level before injuring his knee in a nasty loss at Calgary on Oct. 1.

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When healthy, McManis was the CFL’s best defenseman and arguably one of the league’s most dominant players on either side of the ball.

The 28-year-old’s defensive stat sheet includes 88 tackles (seven more on special teams), three sacks and two interceptions – one of which, a 50-yard pick six, gave the Boatmen a dramatic victory of 30-24 over Saskatchewan. Roughriders at the Touchdown Atlantic game in Nova Scotia on July 16.

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McManis returns to BMO Field on Sunday in an Argos roster that is the best – at least on paper – the club has fielded at any time this season. The only omission is point guard Shane Ray, whose season also ended in Calgary with a bicep tear.

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If he is able to regain his ability to play, McManis believes he has a leading role in the outcome of the game as part of a top notch veteran support unit which also includes Henoc Muamba and Chris Edwards, who will finally be reunited.

“I feel good, my body is fine,” McManis began on the eve of Sunday’s showdown. “Mentally I’m in a good space and just ready to go.”

The mood around the Argos, according to McManis, has been pretty good all week.

“We’re excited,” he said. “There is a lot of energy. Everyone is in a good mood, everyone communicates.

“As a team, I believe we’re in the best space we’ve been in all year, physically and mentally. It should be fun (Sunday).

The Argos struggled with numerous injuries throughout the season as well as some internal adversity. But head coach Ryan Dinwiddie is breathing a little easier with McManis and running back Andrew Harris back in uniform and enjoying an extra week off after leaving for the Eastern Finals.

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“Wynton’s comeback is huge for us,” Dinwiddie said. “Andrew’s comeback is also huge for us because I think he’s going to give us a spark up front. Wynton is the leader of our defense and I don’t think there is anyone who can compare to Wynton.

The Argos held their routine visit on Saturday and were granted access to BMO Field.

“It means everything,” McManis said. “You take one game, one day at a time. You never look ahead, you never take an opponent lightly.

“It’s the biggest game of the year and we’re prepared, we’re ready.”

Montreal advanced to the Eastern Final after last week’s home win over the Ticats. They had a rough start to the season and parted ways with head coach Khari Jones.

“Any time you have a chance to culminate what you’ve worked for all year, you have to be excited for it,” starting quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson said.

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“We’ve worked hard this year, been through a lot, which has made us stronger, ready to top it all off by proving we’re the big dogs in the East.”

According to Dinwiddie, he felt the Argos were focused last year ahead of the Eastern final against Hamilton – which they lost – but admits the sense of urgency was lacking. There should be no worries ahead of Sunday’s game.

This is the final position for many players on the team as an argonaut and in some cases as a pro. That includes McManis, who could get another shot in the NFL after being released by the Miami Dolphins in January, weeks before signing with Toronto.

The 2022 Argos are a veteran-laden group that includes the likes of Brandon Banks, who is hoping to win his first career Gray Cup championship, and former Hamilton teammate Ja’Gared Davis, who will be making his sixth straight appearance at the Gray Cup if a Sunday win is produced.

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“The urgency is there,” Dinwiddie said. “I think last year we were looking forward to the Gray Cup. You won’t. It is the most important game.

“We know we’re up against a good team (in Montreal) coming here and we have to find ways to beat them.

Dinwiddie has decided to do shorter workouts this week.

“Guys seem to be locked in,” he added.

ARGONOTES

Following a knee injury to Maurice Carnell IV in the last game of the regular season, freshman Argo Tarvarus McFadden makes his first playoff start as a cornerback… At no point in the long history of the franchise the Argos – who were in exactly the same position a year ago when they lost the Eastern Finals to the visiting Ticats – have played back-to-back Division Finals at home and lost both times… In Over the past two decades, no team from the East has appeared in more divisional finals than the Argos, who will be on their 12th trip… The Alouettes and Argos last met in the final of East in 2012 when Toronto entered Olympic Stadium to surprise the Alouettes en route to winning the 100th Gray Cup.

fzicarelli@postmedia.com

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