Argos head coach Pinball Clemons doesn't think signing players with problem pasts hurts the club's image and its community outreach.
"We are not going into the community and telling young people, 'If you abused marijuana, if you have any kind of (offences), that you're useless,' " Clemons said in a state of the franchise conference call yesterday. "This is very important to our image that we don't treat people as statistics. We treat people as individuals."
Clemons addressed the Argos pursuit of Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams, who has been suspended for the 2006 National Football League season for violating the substance abuse policy for a fourth time.
The Williams saga, into its 15th day, is stuck in neutral. Miami, which has Williams under contract for two more years, has yet to give him permission to play in the CFL, fearful he may be injured. The Argos have Williams' CFL rights and his agent has been working to try to change the Dolphins' thinking.
The Argos pursuit of Williams has caused a split among some people who think it is a good idea and others who think the Argos are being hypocritical by trying to preach positive values and holding up their players as role models, but in this case pursuing a self-admitted drug user. Argos president Keith Pelley told the Toronto Sun that if Miami gives Toronto permission to sign Williams, the player will have to prove he is no longer doing drugs and to advocate that message to the public.
A source said Williams stopped using drugs two years ago and his recent offence was triggered by a herbal drink.
Two-time NFL rushing leader Terrell Davis, who was in Brampton yesterday as the keynote speaker at an NFL Canada-CFL symposium, commented on the conflict that has arisen with the Argos and Williams.
"You're dealing with a double-edged sword here," Davis said. "I don't think Ricky's a bad guy. I think he might be a little bit different -- and different isn't necessarily bad. I think Ricky is Ricky ... a guy who doesn't conform to what a normal, NFL player should act like. We know that. But he hasn't done anything legally wrong. He has got some issues and marks with some substance abuse, but other than that he's not a criminal.
"If he did decide to play here, I think he'd fit in well. I think the city, wherever he plays, would love to have Ricky."
Davis believes Williams won't be allowed to play here because of the Dolphins' concerns about an injury.
"If Ricky was my client, I would recommend to Ricky to not play anywhere else," Davis said. "I would recommend for him to rest, train like crazy and be prepared for 2007."
Running back Sean Millington, who ended a three-year retirement last year but suffered a torn Achilles tendon after only a few games with the Argos, has retired again to rejoin the CBC broadcast booth for CFL games ... The Argos have signed 2006 second-round draft pick, Leron Mitchell, a cornerback from the University of Western Ontario.