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Argos QB #9 Damon Allen nursing a broken finger hands a ball off to #20 John Avery during practice...

Argos QB #9 Damon Allen nursing a broken finger hands a ball off to #20 John Avery during practice Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at the Argos training facility in Mississauga. (SUN/Greg Henkenhaf)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

It is time to end the mind games and play the real game.

After the Argos spent the past week hiding the identity of their starting quarterback, the team finally will have to show its hand tonight when the B.C. Lions visit the Rogers Centre.

About the only thing Argos coach Pinball Clemons would confirm yesterday is that kicker/punter Noel Prefontaine will not dress as an emergency quarterback.

Damon Allen, who turns 43 tonight and will dress for the first time since breaking a finger in the season opener June 17, Spergon Wynn, who has been cleared to play after taking a hard hit last week in Saskatchewan, and rookie Eric Crouch will all be in uniform.

But Clemons, who had Allen taking first-team reps all week, would not name a starter.

"We have a good idea, but we won't announce that yet," Clemons said. "We'll keep that close to the vest. We want to try to maintain some kind of advantage. If we're going to have this many injuries, you should have some advantage. The advantage for us is them not knowing who the starter is going to be."

Allen, who had his broken middle finger as well as the index finger on his throwing hand taped up yesterday in a new look, said he will be the third-stringer, though that statement appeared to be misleading. Clemons said he has not locked Allen into the No. 3 role.

If history is any indication, the smart money might be on Wynn to start with Allen ready to go in relief. Last year, with Allen coming off an ankle injury, Michael Bishop started a game against the Montreal Alouettes but was replaced by Allen after struggling in the first half.

"There's always a risk I can go out there, come back early, get hurt and be off another two months," Allen said. "That's always a concern for your head coach and organization with your starting quarterback. You make sure you don't put him out there in a situation where he can get hurt again."

The scenario brings back memories of the 2004 Grey Cup game between the Lions and the Argos. B.C. coach Wally Buono did not name a starter before game day, eventually settling on Dave Dickenson instead of the slightly injured Casey Printers. The Argos won 27-19

This time around, the Lions have prepared to face Allen.

"There's nothing I can do about it," Buono said. "We have prepared like Damon is going to start. You have to. Damon is a great quarterback with a great amount of experience."

Meanwhile, John Avery may not be a true featured back in the wake of the injury to Argos star running back Ricky Williams. Clemons said Canadian Jeff Johnson will play an important role in the game.

"Jeff Johnson has really proved he deserves the opportunity to carry the ball more," Clemons said. "We don't automatically say Jeff Johnson is our No. 2."


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