On the field, Elfrid Payton loves to accent each sack of the quarterback with a little dance. Off the field, his Stallions teammates cannot stop the superb pass-rusher from cracking jokes or breaking into song.
However, that off-the-wall demeanor abruptly disappears when Payton talks about playing the British Columbia Lions, who on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium could become the first team to defeat the Stallions twice in back-to-back CFL seasons.
"It upsets me," Payton said of the Stallions' losses to British Columbia in last season's Grey Cup and this year's season opener. "We're a better team, and now it's a matter of proving it. It's always easy to say you're better, but we haven't proven it yet.
"I feel we're up to the challenge. I don't think there's anyone who has to get up for this game. I wish it was today."
In the season-opening 37-34 loss to the Lions, the Stallions were penalized 11 times and made several key mistakes, including Mike Pringle's fumble late in the game.
But the Stallions' defense kept them in the game, forcing six turnovers. Payton, whose offsides penalty led to British Columbia's first touchdown, made a positive impact later by recovering three fumbles.
"I think we have improved since the last time," Payton said. "We have to get out there and cut down on the mental mistakes. They made mistakes, too, but it seemed not to hurt them as much."
One of Payton's main goals this week is to put more pressure on quarterback Danny McManus. In their last meeting, the Stallions did not sack McManus, who beat them with short drop-backs and quick releases.
Payton, who has not recorded a sack in his past three games against the Lions, said there is an added incentive to rush the quarterback in the final two regular-season games. The Stallions have clinched the Southern Division, but Payton is involved in another race -- for the CFL sack lead.
He was tied with the Memphis Mad Dogs' Tim Cofield last week with 17 sacks. During the Stallions' bye week, Cofield pulled away from Payton, tying the single-game league record with five, which Payton had matched in an earlier game.
"I want to be first," said Payton, who was the league leader in sacks with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1993. "I'm the best pass rusher in the league, and I'm not satisfied with second. It's all about wanting to win. If an offensive lineman beats me, it's going to hurt."
NOTES: Robert Clark, who missed two games with a sprained ankle, will start Saturday at wide receiver, along with rookie Toby Cates. Shannon Culver will be the backup receiver, and Mark Orlando will go back to the practice roster. . . With Irv Smith nursing a sore shoulder, Douglass Craft will shift to left cornerback, and rookie Melvin Crawford will get his first pro start at right cornerback.