Not easy being an Argo

BILL LANKHOF -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Chad Folk is the perfect Argonaut.

He's used to seeing the world upside down.

In 10 seasons as the team's centre he has seen the good times, the bad times, the sublime and the ridiculous.

Yep, he remembers Popsicle John Huard and the J.I. Albrecht family circus. Tough days to be an Argonaut.

But, he says, not any more difficult than right now. Six years after the derision died, Folk is hoping coach Pinball Clemons can rekindle the magic. So far, much like his offence, Pinball has been throwing up goose eggs.

At the weekend, the team fired its offensive co-ordinator, Kent Austin. Yesterday, Clemons, weary of playing Clayton Ruby to Robert Baker, released the troublesome, talented receiver.

Meantime, the Tiger-Cats sit in Hamilton licking their chops in anticipation of a Saturday night buffet.

Wisteria Lane doesn't have this much intrigue.

"I was here when Huard was in charge," Folk said.

"But this time it's tougher because back then we didn't have a good team. We have a more talented team here than we've shown. That's what makes it more frustrating. We have veterans; two years ago we won the Cup. We had expectations ... "

Instead they have an injury list that goes on longer than their offensive drives: Twenty players have missed time. Instead, they try to become a two-dimensional offence by adding running back Ricky Williams to their potent aerial game -- and wind up in a twilight zone. Instead, they get Baker, after punching a teammate and spitting at fans, lipping off to the coach.

"I still have a lot of respect for Robert and love him as a person," Clemons said yesterday. "This wasn't the result of any one thing. But I have a responsibility not only to Robert but to the welfare of the whole team ... we couldn't (let Baker's disruptive attitude) interrupt the dynamic of the group."

This year may be Clemons' greatest football challenge.

"I'm not sure with all the awful stuff that goes on in the world that you could call this a crisis, but from a football sense I suppose you could use the word," Folk said.

"When you can't even put a drive together to give the defence a breather then something, you know, is going to happen."

That something came Saturday, two days after the Argos couldn't get out of their own end in the loss to Montreal. Clemons had to tell Austin, one of his best friends, he was fired.

"It was the most difficult thing in football that I've ever had to do," Clemons said.

"I was the guy who brought him here. Our families are close; our kids go to the same school, we go to the same church. I talked to him Saturday. Then, on Sunday we're all sitting in church, our wives and everyone, and I know there were stomachs churning.

"Then we all hugged." Sweet.

The Argos' problems will take more to fix than a group hug.

Yesterday, the offence practised under general manager and interim co-ordinator Adam Rita.

"I'm not here to change the world," Rita said. "After all a curl is a curl, a five out is still a five out. We just have not been executing to the best of our abilities. We have a new tough-love in camp. The next guy that goes could be you."

Oops, hold it!

Spergon Wynn just got intercepted by Kahlil Carter and Jermaine Mays on back-to-back plays. But Damon Allen is back. Ditto John Avery.

So how's practice?

"I'd give it a seven (out of 10). The tempo was good, we seemed to block well, we're doing a few different things already," Folk said.

Better yet, no Argos were seriously injured getting out of their driveways yesterday.

So that's different.

"What makes this so frustrating is that we expected so much better from ourselves," Folk said.

Running game

Passing game. It shouldn't make any difference.

"We're not confused. We're pros. We should be able to execute any play call. On offence everyone has to be together and you look at our game film it's one guy making a mistake. Then another. That's why we are in this situation. On offence all it takes is for one guy to mess up."

Pinball denies charges his players aren't trying.

"I challenge you to watch the film with (Michael) O'Shea or (Jordan) Younger or the offensive line and show them where they're not working hard enough. It's unfounded."

And, on this day Avery is looking spry. There's lots of chatter. The offensive line gets a boost with the return of Jerome Davis. They have three days to figure out how not to "mess up" against the Ticats.

Three days to figure out how to avoid the next dose of tumult.

Said Folk, surveying the wreckage: "It's a great game but it's a terrible business."


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