Argos turn to Canadians

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:33 PM ET

Talk about Canadian content.

Jeff Johnson will be making his first start for the Argos since joining the organization in 2002 on Thursday when the Argos play host to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at the Rogers Centre. Depending on how the game goes, another Canuck, John Williams, who is listed behind Johnson on the depth chart, may see some action.

There is a possibility that fourth-stringer Bryan Crawford also could play.

Johnson replaces fellow Canadian Sean Millington, who suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the second quarter of the Argos' 49-23 win over the Montreal Alouettes this past Saturday. Johnson carried the ball seven times for 85 yards and had three catches for 76 yards, including a 59-yarder for a touchdown, in a relief role.

Millington took over for import John Avery, who injured a hamstring in the Argos' previous game. He had an ultrasound yesterday and it showed the tear already has filled in and it's just a matter of stretching and getting the strength back.

He doesn't expect to be playing again until the playoffs, whether it's the East Division semi-final or the Eastern final if the Argos clinch first place with a win in one of their remaining two regular-season games.

Head coach Pinball Clemons said yesterday the Argos will be signing another running back mainly to play special teams and learn the offence, but he likely won't play on Thursday.

ALL-CANADIAN BACKFIELDS

"If they bring somebody in, well, that's what they do, there's nothing I can do about that. But at least they know what I can do and they know what the Canadians can do and that's what I'm trying to represent out there," Johnson said.

Johnson will be part of an all-Canadian backfield for both the Argos and Tiger-Cats. Hamilton will feature Jesse Lumsden at tailback and in some formations he'll have former McMaster University teammate Kojo Aidoo lining up as the fullback.

Johnson and Lumsden both have a connection to American Troy Davis. Johnson lost his role as the starting tailback to Davis midway through the 2001 season with Hamilton, while Lumsden ascended to the starting tailback role when the Tiger-Cats traded Davis in a multi-player deal to the Edmonton Eskimos earlier this month.

When Johnson started a game in 2001 against Edmonton after the Tiger-Cats cut Ronald Williams, it featured the first all-Canadian backfield among two teams in one game in some 50 years. Hamilton had Duane Forde lining up in front of Johnson, while Edmonton featured fullback Shawn Daniels and running back Mark Nohra.

"I had a couple of more starts after that, but we stopped running the ball," Johnson said. "Now here's another opportunity that I could receive the ball a little bit more, but it's going to be an all-Canadian backset again. It's kind of ironic, but it's nice."


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