If there are any cases of nerves among the Winnipeg Blue Bombers heading into the Grey Cup game, they haven't shown themselves in five days of preparation this week.
"We've been loose," receiver Terence Edwards said after the Blue Bombers walked through their plays one last time on Saturday at B.C. Place. "We're not supposed to be here.
"We're not supposed to win a game, so we have no reason to be tight. They're at home. They've got all the pressure. They're the favourites. They're the top dog that now won 11 games out of 12. So we're here and we're going to show up and win a game."
The "they" Edwards referred to are the B.C. Lions, who will face the Bombers in the CFL championship game Sunday.
The red-hot Lions are favoured by oddsmakers to win by a converted touchdown, and a sellout crowd of about 54,000 in the domed stadium will mostly be wearing B.C. Orange.
They have the CFL's best offence and are statistically a close second to the Bombers on defence.
But there is something about the atmosphere that has surrounded the Winnipeg squad all week, a mix of dedicated work, enthusiasm and playfulness, that suggests they have a battlers' chance to pull off an upset.
"We're going to give it our all and see what happens," added Edwards, the favourite target for scrambling quarterback Buck Pierce. "They're a great team, so we've got to match them.
"If we don't, it'll get away pretty quick. But I think my team is confident enough to play with them. We beat them twice, but that was early in the season, and we feel we can beat them again."
The Bombers' two victories over B.C. came while the Lions were suffering through a 1-6 start to the season. It was after the second win, a 30-17 decision on Aug. 13, that the Lions and their CFL Outstanding Player quarterback Travis Lulay took off on an eight-game winning run that helped them clinch first place in the West Division.
"It was the same personnel we're going to play (on Sunday), so we beat them before and we have to execute and beat them again," said centre Obby Khan.
A major exception was B.C.'s later acquisition of veteran receiver Arland Bruce, whose reliability has taken some pressure off star receiver Geroy Simon and given the Lions a more balanced attack.
Winnipeg counters with the top pass defence in the league, led by ball-hungry backs Jovon Johnson and Jonathan Hefney. They also have a nasty pass rush led by league sacks co-leader Odell Willis.
Reasons to win
The Bombers also feel they have much to play for — not only to break the league's longest Grey Cup drought that dates to 1990. The sources of motivation are many.
The team was shattered in mid-season when popular assistant head coach Richard Harris collapsed and died. There was more bad news when star running back Fred Reid was lost for the season with a knee injury, although he has been ably replaced by Chris Garrett.
The team went through a 3-7 slump to end the season, but found a way to edge two-time defending Cup champion Montreal and claim top spot in the East.
"Coach Harris is an added incentive because we loved him and we want to win for him," said Khan. "For me, he was a father figure. He's the first and only guy I've had like that."
Pierce feels that setbacks have made the Bombers stronger.
"This is a mentally tough football team," he said. "The adversity that's been thrown our way is something that prepared us for this.
"We had to go through more than most athletes. We lost a coach in the middle of a season. We've been the underdogs since Day One. We fought and clawed our way here."
It will also almost certainly be the final game in the career of seven-time CFL all-star Doug Brown. The Vancouver-area native is leaning towards retirement after an 11-year career as one of the CFL's top defensive tackles.
Brown said he wants to win mostly to bring a Grey Cup back to Winnipeg.
"This is for the 2011 Blue Bombers, to try to put some shine back on the franchise that's won 10 championships but hasn't won one in 20 years. That's what this game's about," the six-foot-eight Brown said. "What other team would winning a title mean more to than the City of Winnipeg right now? That's why we're all out here."
Asked why he feels Winnipeg will win, Brown said: "Because we're long overdue. That's why I think we have a shot. We match up pretty well against B.C., but we're not kidding ourselves. We know it's going to be one hell of a contest and we'll have to be at our best."
The only minor glitch in the Bombers' preparation was a brief controversy over some questionable messages sent out this week on Twitter by Willis, but coach Paul LaPolice said he talked to his top pass rusher and asked him to apologize to anyone who may have been offended. LaPolice considers the matter settled.
None of it seemed to detract from Willis' resolve.
"This is the biggest game I've ever played in my life and I'm blessed to be here," the third-year Bomber said. "I just feel like this is a group that is bound together.
"We're willing to do what it takes for each other to win. It's just confidence in each other, so we're going to get it done, hopefully."
LaPolice said he has not used the 21 years without a Cup in talks with his players this week because the current team is not responsible for failures in the past. He said he won't be making any monumental pre-game motivational speech because "I want them as relaxed as they can be."
So players will try to follow their usual routines.
Pierce will get up early, have a good breakfast and get to the stadium as early as possible to make sure all is ready.
And Khan won't change his "weird" pre-game ritual, even for the title game. That is to clip nails on the field before the game starts.
"I don't know why I do that," he said. "I let my nails grow all week and I'll cut them before the game. Around the CFL, there are nail clippings of Obby Khan everywhere. Every game for eight years. A little weird."