‘They all want to get a win for Andrew’: Argos aiming to beat Winnipeg for star running back Harris

Photo courtesy: Jeff Vinnick/B.C. Lions

Toronto Argonauts’ head coach Ryan Dinwiddie knows that his players want to help star running back Andrew Harris beat his former team.

“They all want to get a win for Andrew. We haven’t talked that message at all — we just need to get back on track and play better than we did last week, find ways to give these guys some challenges, and make it a close game — make the plays we need to make at the end. That’s kinda where our focus is, but I know in the back of their minds those guys want to play well and play well for their brother,” Dinwiddie told the media.

When asked if he plans to make Harris the focus for his team in Monday’s game, Dinwiddie recoiled. Coming off a humiliating 44-3 loss to the B.C. Lions last week, he simply wants his team to focus on improving.

“That’s not where our focus is. I don’t think Andrew would want that anyways — I think he’d probably be pretty embarrassed by it. It’s just a football game that we’ve gotta win where we’re at right now. We’re 1-1, we haven’t played our best football. We want to play better football and be competitive, try to find a way to win this game,” said Dinwiddie.

“I think that’s already gonna be out there for the media, I think guys know that — they know that Andrew’s going against his former team so we’ll just leave it at that.”

Harris played five seasons with his hometown Blue Bombers, recording 5,402 rushing yards, 2,584 receiving yards, and 35 touchdowns while winning back-to-back Grey Cups. He knows Richie Hall’s defence well and is very familiar with a number of the team’s defensive stars.

“I’ve practiced against those guys for a lot of years — (linebacker Adam) Bighill especially from back in B.C. — so I have some tendencies that I’m going off of and I’m sure they do for me as well, so I’m just looking forward to putting my best foot forward and helping the team get a W,” said Harris.

“From the offensive side and defensive side, I know it pretty in and out. Obviously, there’s going to be some new changes and different things they’re doing but just talking to [my teammates] about what [Winnipeg’s defenders] are trying to do, what they’re trying to accomplish, and just helping pick up little cues to have a little bit of an edge.”

Monday’s game marks the only regular season meeting between Toronto and Winnipeg in 2022. Harris is looking forward to playing against his former team for the first time and doesn’t appear to be holding a grudge against the Bombers after they let him leave in free agency back in February.

“Obviously, I’m excited. It’s a team that you did so much with and got to know and love and playing in your hometown. It was one of the most exciting things I could have imagined to do as a professional athlete — a pro football player — playing in your hometown and having some success there,” said Harris.

Harris was limited to seven carries for 27 yards in last week’s loss to B.C. and lost a fumble early in the third quarter. One thing that should help the Argos bounce back is that starting offensive guards Philip Blake and Dariusz Bladek are listed as starters on the team’s depth chart after missing practice on Saturday.

“We’re not really focused on Winnipeg,” said Harris. “We’re focused on what we do as a unit and obviously three points is not good enough. I think this week we took a good look in the mirror of who we were last week and how we can be better. I think as far as our offence is concerned, we have to have a better identity of who the Argos as an offence is.”

Toronto was out-gained by 341 yards in Vancouver last week with second-year passer Nathan Rourke setting a new Canadian single-game record with 436 passing yards. The club remains atop the East Division standings at 1-1 despite the embarrassing loss thanks to slow starts from the Montreal Alouettes (1-3), Ottawa Redblacks (0-3), and Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-4).

“It was just a very humbling experience,” said Dinwiddie. “I was shocked more than anything because I’ve never had a loss like that — that’s the worst I’ve ever had. You look at it, you learn from it, and it was good for us to understand that we’ve gotta put a lot more work in to be the team we want to be.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.