Argos sign NFL castoff

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

The Argos welcomed the Riall Deal yesterday.

Riall Johnson, a 27-year-old linebacker/rush-end prospect, signed with the team after growing weary of opportunities that weren't happening in the National Football League.

He had played three years in the NFL after the Cincinnati Bengals drafted him in the sixth round out of Stanford in 2001. He suited up principally as a special teams player. When the Bengals released him after the 2003 season, he signed on with the Arizona Cardinals, but later was released.

FED UP

The Argos, meanwhile, had been pursuing the 6-foot-3, 260-pounder after selecting him in the Canadian Football League supplemental draft last year. It's a draft for players who don't get selected in the regular draft, for whatever reason. Because he spent the first five years of his life in Canada -- before his family relocated to his current home in the Seattle suburb of Lynwood -- Johnson became eligible for non-import status in the CFL.

"I'm ready to learn the rules of Canadian football," he said. "I've watched it a lot. It doesn't seem all that much different from how we do it down here.

"I was having talks with NFL teams and they were stringing me along, so I got kind of tired of it. This was my last chance to pretty well sign with Toronto because I wanted to get in before training camp (on May 29).

"I'm a better pass rusher than I am in pass coverage. I just never got the opportunity in the NFL," he said. "Hopefully I can get utilized to do everything I can. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be happy in Toronto. I feel like I'm going to go there to play football instead of work as a football player like I've been doing in the NFL."

LIFE OF BRIAN

Receiver Brian Nugent who formally played with the Calgary Stampeders and the Montreal Alouettes will attend the Argos training camp, hoping his body holds up to the physical demands.

The former York University star has gone through a litany of injuries in his career, including dislocating both of his shoulders numerous times, tearing both his medial and anterior cruciate knee ligaments, tearing a hamstring, tearing a biceps muscle and still is feeling the effects of a concussion from a hit by Clifford Ivory in a game against the Argos last September.

But the chance to play close to home has the Brampton native, who turns 26 in June, eager to put his body through one more test.

"The No. 1 reason is I'm at home and it's with family and friends and I get a chance to play in front of people who've always watched me throughout my career," Nugent said. "It's not that often you get a chance to play at the pro level for starters and, as a bonus, play at home in front of your home crowd. You can't get any more home than this. I'm getting a shot and we'll see what happens."

COULTER TO RETIRE

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will formally announce the retirement today of centre Carl Coulter, whose career began in 1990 with B.C. The 38-year-old Lindsay native spent six of the past seven seasons with the Tiger-Cats.


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