Allen carries more than Williams

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

One thing is apparently clear about the Argos this season: For all that has been talked about new running back Ricky Williams, the key player still is quarterback Damon Allen.

All it took was one play in pre-season to underline that. In the second series of the Argos' 21-11 loss to Hamilton on Friday night at Ivor Wynne Stadium, Allen made an excellent play-action fake to Williams, then scampered 19 yards and fumbled upon contact.

And collectively you could sense a tremendous concern among everybody connected with the team when Allen suffered some kind of injury. The team's communications staff informed the media that Allen had, in fact, not been hurt and the game plan had been for backup Spergon Wynn to receive more playing time than in the first pre-season game.

But clearly not that early.

"It wasn't part of the game plan. We wanted to play him a little bit longer," head coach Pinball Clemons said afterward before giving kudos to Argo media relations chief Beth Waldman for "acting like a good communications person should."

After re-focusing his thoughts, Clemons talked about Allen.

"He went out of the game and (has) a good chance to play (in the season opener this Saturday), so we just wanted to be safe and sure," Clemons said.

When asked about the nature of the injury, Clemons said: "He was no longer able to play."

In that respect, he sounded as if he had studied from former Maple Leaf coach Pat Quinn, he of the upper and lower-body injury. In fact, one scribe asked Clemons if he coached hockey.

"I'll digress if I go there. I'm not even going there," Clemons added with a laugh.

But the cold, hard reality is that Allen has suffered injuries of one kind or another since joining the team in 2003 after staying free of it for the most part since entering the Canadian Football League in 1985.

And there has always been a niggling question in his Toronto tenure: Do the Argos have a good enough backup should Allen suffer a serious injury?

Michael Bishop became the undisputed backup in 2004 when the Argos traded Marcus Brady to Hamilton just before the start of the season amid criticism from several people that the wrong understudy had been dealt. Bishop posted a 4-3-1 record as a starter as Allen recovered from a broken leg.

Bishop played capably but not solidly, and when he grew tired of not playing more and the team decided he didn't fit into its future, moves were made to address the quarterback situation for this year and beyond.

Wynn arrived from Winnipeg in a trade and Eric Crouch, a Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Nebraska in 2001, finally signed with Toronto, realizing the NFL wouldn't give him a shot because of concerns about his arm strength and height. Last year's third-stringer, Charlie Peterson, rounded out the corps coming to training camp. Meanwhile, Bishop was released.

Wynn's mistakes and numerous dropped balls by the receivers contributed to him struggling in the pre-season.

"It's been a while since I played -- I didn't play a down last year -- and my timing is a little bit off," Wynn said after Friday's game. "It just takes a little bit of live fire to go ahead and get you tested. If felt like I went in and I was off a little bit, but I came back and got into a rhythm at the end."

Whether Allen will be ready to go for the season opener or the Mighty Wynn has just received some valuable playing time should he be required to start sooner than expected will be answered in six days.

In the meantime, Argos fans won't be asking how Ricky Williams is doing, but more likely the status of Damon Allen. The CFL is, after all, all about the quarterback, and in this case it was the one voted most outstanding player in the league.


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