Foley to face former Lions teammates for first time

Ricky Foley believes he made the right decision last year to leave the B.C. Lions and sign with the home-town Toronto Argonauts.

Ricky Foley

Ricky Foley

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Ricky Foley believes he made the right decision last year to leave the B.C. Lions and sign with the home-town Toronto Argonauts.

But the native of Courtice, Ont., does regret the path he took to be closer to home.

Foley will face his former team for the first time tonight when Toronto hosts B.C. at Rogers Centre. Foley and the Argos return Vancouver on Sept. 10 to complete the home-and-home series.

“Hands down it was the right decision because I have 100 kids from the community coming to the game, probably got 20 family and friends also coming and you can’t go wrong with family, right?” Foley said. “I have young nephews now and I hated not seeing them for six months and missing them growing up and I can get away to the family farm and in the summer there’s no better place to be.

“But I didn’t handle it as professionally as I should have. There are a few things I would do differently and it won’t happen again, put it that way.”

The colourful defensive end had agreed to return to B.C. after being released by the NFL’s New York Jets, with the Lions going so far as to issue a press release announcing Foley’s return.

But Foley, 29, never did. Instead, the six-foot-two, 258-pound lineman visited with the Argos and signed with them Sept. 14 to cap what was, even by CFL standards, a truly bizarre situation. But Foley won’t be out to prove anything.

“I’m not any more hyped up for this game than any other,” Foley said. “It’s a different feeling, I’ll admit, and at game-time I’m sure it will be different, I’m sure there’ll be a little bit more juice.

“But I’m a pretty emotional guy anyways and it’s hard for me to go to another level pre-game because I’m already kind of there.”

Argos head coach/GM Jim Barker won’t try to curb Foley’s enthusiasm.

“Ricky is who Ricky is,” Barker said. “I’m not going to change anything about him.

“He’s smart, he understands what it is he has to do for us to win, he understands he has to keep his emotions in check. That’s part of being part of our organization and you either buy into that or you don’t and Ricky has been a true warrior in that sense.”

Lions head coach/GM Wally Buono says Foley’s decision is water under the bridge.

“When it unfolded I think it was a little confusing for everybody but Ricky made the best decision for him,” Buono said. “Obviously being here in southern Ontario was important to him.”

Foley’s goal Friday will be to hit, harass and chase down Lions quarterback Travis Lulay. While that’s indeed a daunting prospect, Lulay is surprisingly looking forward to facing Foley.

“It will kind of be fun, honestly,” Lulay said.

“Anytime you get to play against a guy who was a key part of what you did it’s fun and you want to play well against your former teammates and friends.

“And there’s no question we’re going to get Ricky Foley’s best effort. But he’s a high-motor guy and you expect that every week from him however it will be fun to line up against him.”

Foley will undoubtedly face a cool reception next week when Toronto travels to Vancouver, however the colder, the better.

“Please boo me because it will give me more juice,” he said. “That would be the best thing in the world for me.”

But there’s much more at stake than redemption. Both Toronto and B.C. have struggled this season with identical 2-6 records.

The Lions are third in the West Division standings and while the Argos are last in the East, they remain in playoff contention.

In the CFL, if the fourth-place team in one division has more points than the third-place squad in the other, the fourth-place club crosses over to take the third and final playoff spot in the opposing conference.

“It we lose this game, we’re kind of screwing ourselves for the playoffs,” Foley said. “Even if we split with them, it’s a battle for the rest of the year.

“These next three games (two versus B.C., then at Saskatchewan on Sept. 17) we have to sweep pretty much to make sure we’re in good position to make the playoffs. We have to take care of that first, take care of these next three games, take care of the crossover and get our foot in the door and get the invite to the dance and then we’ll start worrying about climbing the ladder in the East.”