Argos looking for aid from Lemon

Toronto Argonauts starting QB Cleo Lemon will make his first CFL start in more than two years when...

Toronto Argonauts starting QB Cleo Lemon will make his first CFL start in more than two years when he takes the field on Thursday against the Calgary Stampeders. (MIKE CASESSE/Reuters)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:52 AM ET

When Cleo Lemon steps behind centre Thursday for the Toronto Argonauts’ season opener in Calgary, it will be the first time in more than two years that he’s started a football game.

Here’s hoping he still remembers what he’s doing back there — the entire Argonauts’ season could depend on it.

Other than that — no pressure.

“Oh, I’m excited. Opening day. Canada Day, a stadium full of people with great atmosphere like I’ve heard they have in Calgary,” Lemon said yesterday as several thousand people turned up for the annual Fan Day open practice at the U of T Erindale campus.

“I’ve been trying to pick (former Stampeder) Jeremaine Copeland’s brain about what it will be like ... the blood will be boiling.”

‘Feeling’/p>

The last time Lemon found himself in this situation was 2007 in Week 15 with Miami when he replaced Trent Green and led the Dolphins to their only win of the season.

“I’ve learned that anytime I step on the football field you have to treat it like it could be your last time. Play each down like it’s your last.

“When I walked off the field after that game, I knew it was a feeling that I wanted to have again.”

Little did he know it would take almost 30 months, a different league and another country to find that feeling again.

Now that it is here, there is very little margin for error.

This is an Argonauts team that cannot afford to stumble out of the gate. When a club is coming off a 3-15 season, the psyche can be brittle.

There also is a necessity from a business perspective to show fans there is hope.

“Every game is vital, it’s the CFL, but for us with seven wins in two years maybe it’s a little more vital,” admits coach Jim Barker, who has made a concerted effort to fuel the enthusiasm of fans and players alike all spring.

“It’s great to see all the fans out here today and they’re excited to see what we’re going to be; the players are going to be excited to see what we’ll be.”

So, what will they be?

As they prepare for Game 1, six of the starters on defence are either new or playing a different position than when the team played its season opener last year.

Alex Buzbee is debuting on the line, Gordon Younger has moved to linebacker and joins Jason Pottinger.

Byron Parker is back and Willie Pile moves to safety with Sammy Joseph opening at defensive back.

On offence, there are eight positions with new faces including Cedric Gagne-Marcoux on the O-line along with Chris Van Zeyl, who replaces Brian Ramsay.

Lemon is a CFL virgin at QB at quarterback. Ditto Cory Boyd at running back. Charles Owens is new at receiver, along with Copeland and Brandon Rideau. Andre Durie is back but now at slotback.

Both kickers are new.

Fans, vowed Barker, “are going to see a passionate group who will put every ounce of energy into making this club one they will be proud of.”

It shouldn’t take long to see if that is mere wishful thinking.

The only soft spot on the schedule may be the second week against the Bombers and said Barker, “Winnipeg has improved.”

There are two games against Calgary and two more against Montreal.

Both Barker and Lemon said there’s been an adrenalin surge to practice the past couple days.

“You can feel it, there’s an edge,” said Barker.

Barker promises the shackles will come off the offence in the season opener. Preseason was mostly “about plays. Seeing what guys could do ... the real season is about playing a system.”

More motion.

Less conservative.

And, Lemon is aware of the sharp learning curve he’s navigating.

What has surprised him the most about his CFL baptism?

“The speed of the defence. The defensive ends can change direction in the blink of an eye. Sometimes you think you’ve got a chance to get outside the pocket but they close on you very fast.”

And, sometimes that big field shrinks very quickly.

“The throwing windows; the secondary does a good job of baiting you into throwing to places.

“That’s one thing I’ve experienced in camp, trying to figure out when they’re trying to bait me ... but if you can get out of the pocket it’s a breath of fresh air.”

Good luck with that.

Because it has been a long time since anyone in Argonauts’ blue has been able to breathe easy.

bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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