Bell ready for shot with Argos

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:26 PM ET

Dalton Bell wouldn’t mind trying something this weekend he hasn’t done since 2006.

And chances are very good, the 24-year-old quarterback is going to get that chance if, as expected, the Argonauts name Bell their starting quarterback for Saturday’s game with Saskatchewan.

For now, however, Argos head coach Jim Barker is maintaining the starting quarterback job remains Cleo Lemon’s until the incumbent, who suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss to Edmonton, is officially ruled out by team doctors.

Lemon did not participate in yesterday’s practice at the Hershey Centre Sportszone.

Sporting a hoodie and sunglasses, Lemon looked like a guy still suffering the effects of a concussion, but as per team policy did not update his own health status.

The most definitive Barker would get about Lemon’s status was if he doesn’t practice by Thursday he won’t play.

On the other hand, Barker was equally definitive that if Lemon is cleared to play, he will remain the starter.

Welcome

Bell, well into his second year in the CFL, has not started a game since his senior year at West Texas A&M in 2006 where he played under Wade Phillips’ son, Wes, who is now a member of the Cowboys coaching staff.

In the four years in between, Bell has had stops in Carolina, Green Bay, Seattle and Saskatchewan.

Over those four years he has taken exactly 10 snaps in regular-season play, all of them coming this season when he completed half of them.

He said he would welcome any playing opportunity that came his way. The fact that it is Saskatchewan only adds to the moment for the 27-year-old Texan.

“I guess it would be nice to go against those guys,” Bell said of the Riders who he spent all of the 2009 season with but never made the field.

“I know a lot of the guys on that team and it would be fun to go against them.”

Bell, like his coach, contends he does not know yet whether he will start, but he is preparing like he will.

“I’m just taking it day by day,” Bell said. “Hopefully Cleo gets well. I’ve had a concussion. I know how it feels and I just wish him the best.”

But wishing a teammate the best and letting an opportunity slip through one’s fingers are two very different things.

And if this is Bell’s opportunity, he is determined to make the best of it.

“I just told myself I would go in and prepare like I would start,” Bell said.

“I think that’s best for me. If I don’t start, I know the team will do well with Cleo. If I do, then I don’t want to let the team down. I want to take this opportunity and run with it.”

Barker’s reluctance to even appear to be moving on from Lemon is completely understandable.

Lemon has been his starter since the season began, has struggled at times but he has shown flashes — and Bell isn’t a certainty to flourish in his absence. It could be that Barker winds up going back to Lemon at some point — so he doesn’t want to lose him.

Bell, though, has been waiting patiently for this chance.

He’s not going to make it easy for Barker to give Lemon his job back.

Bell wasn’t saying so yesterday, but a case can be made that he actually deserved the job off his pre-season performance. Lemon got the starting job, but it’s not a stretch to say Bell had the better pre-season.

“It was a choice,” Bell said.

“I have been in this business four years and I’ve realized that sometimes no matter how hard you work at something, it’s out of your hands. That’s what I did this pre-season. I worked as hard as I could, left it in someone’s hands, but tried to make it a tough decision.

Matured

“They made their decision and I’m fine with it. Yeah I wanted to play, but it is what it is and I’ve just been preparing all season for this moment — and if it comes, I want to be ready.”

Bell admits that had this opportunity presented itself last year, he might not have been ready.

“Last year it was a lot tougher than this year (to stay sharp),” he said.

“I was the third guy in Saskatchewan and now I’m the second guy. I just wasn’t as sharp as I should have been last year. But this year it just seems easier. Maybe I’ve matured more or I worked a little harder, but I just decided for my career it would be a good idea to stay sharp.”

The four-year wait has not been easy, but as Bell points out his life could be a whole lot worse, too.

“Here’s a real thing,” Bell says when he is asked about how tough it was waiting his turn. “I’m playing football. I’m not sitting in a cubicle typing up reports or whatever. I’m not in the military back home or in Afghanistan fighting.

“I’m getting paid decent — so it’s all good.”

But it can get a whole lot better if he can take his opportunity this weekend and run with it.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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