Toronto Argonauts’ outspoken defensive tackle Adriano Belli is hoping to get Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish off of his game by pulling down his pants in Sunday’s Grey Cup.
Cornish wears his pants low around the waist and has had them pulled down in two games this year by opposing players, exposing his buttocks.
"He does wear them quite low, so if I get a chance to rip them right off I certainly will," Belli said in advance of the 100th Grey Cup at Rogers Centre.
Cornish also dropped his pants one time in another game this year to moon fans at a game in Regina and was fined by the Canadian Football League and the Stampeders. He profusely apologized for his behaviour.
When asked if he would say anything to Cornish if he pulls his pants down, Belli replied: "I think he’ll be embarrassed enough on national television."
Told that it’s already happened to Cornish, Belli replied: "He is a nice little running back and he does have a cute little bum, so we’ll see how it goes."
Cornish’s loose pants were tightened up by the Stampeders’ equipment manager in the West Division Final to ensure they stayed snug. He proceeded to keep his pants on and ran wild on the B.C. Lions.
Cornish led the CFL in rushing yards this year with 1,457 — which set a record for Canadian running backs — and was named the West Division’s Most Outstanding Player award for his efforts.
The East Division nominee is Argonauts’ Chad Owens, who set a pro record for all-purpose yardage this year with 3,863 yards.
Turning serious, Belli has praise for Cornish and his ability to break tackles,
"He’s a downhill runner and keeps his feet moving after contact," Belli said. "Besides (Argos’) Chad Kackert he’s probably the best back in the league now. I’m partial to Chad Kackert. I think he’s a little ball of nails. As for Cornish, I just want to get in his head as much as I possibly can, try and get him off his game. He’s going to rack up some yards, going to make some great plays, but you just have to try to contain him.
"You see how hard Cornish runs. He’s an incredible athlete and is not afraid to hit it downhill. Most running backs try to avoid the middle of the front seven. I admire the way he plays, but I can’t wait to get my helmet on him.
"I’ve been out of the league for awhile, so I haven’t had a chance to have a lunch date with him yet. We’ll certainly have a lunch date on Sunday," added Belli, who came out of a one and a half-year retirement to join the Argos for the tail end of the season and hopefully cap off his career with a Grey Cup win in his home town.
"My goal was to make it back and get to the Cup," he said. "Everything else is gravy right now, but my main focus right now is stopping Jon Cornish and getting to (quarterback) Kevin Glenn."
Belli has been known to take some penalties and has occasionally engaged in fisticuffs and has been tossed out of games. He was suspended for the start of the 2010 regular season for entering the Montreal Alouettes locker room prior to their playoff game in 2009 and challenging the team to a fight.
With so much on the line on Sunday, he plans to play within the rules.
"We’ve addressed that," he said. "You’ve got to make it happen between the whistles. We’ve got to make sure we don’t take any penalties at the wrong time. There are times in the game when you can take a penalty here and there, but it can’t be at a time when we’re about to score or a moment when we’re they’re about to score. You’ve got to pick and choose your spots. Anything can happen. Tempers flair up. You don’t want to get into unnecessary roughness, but you want to play on the edge. Teams that don’t play on the edge don’t win.
"It’s as much a mental warfare as it is physical warfare," he added. "It’s contagious when you’re exciting and positive and everybody’s on top of their game, but it’s also contagious when you get one of their best players down on themselves. I love being out there stirring the pot, but at the same time you’ve got to show up when the ball is snapped and make a play here and there."
Belli said it will be an unusual experience playing a Grey Cup at home as opposed to on the road. The Argos will be in a designated hotel because of league rules for participating teams in the Grey Cup.
"I love being in a hotel. It’s like a big slumber party," he said. "Imagine 40 or so men that are all troublemakers on one floor of a hotel. It’s fun. It’s like a big, pajama party."
Some coaches will employ curfew during Grey Cup week, others will be more relaxed. Don Matthews, who won five Grey Cups as a head coach, often gave his players freedom, but asked them for a week of their life for a lifetime of memories.
"We have a curfew, but it’s for players 35 years old and younger," he said. "I’m just over 35. I guess it doesn’t apply to me. Seriously though, I don’t want to be a distraction. I’m going to enjoy it, but my main focus is playing at my peak performance on Sunday as well."