Argos adjust on the fly

STEVE BUFFERY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

Argonauts coach Michael (Pinball) Clemons was forced to call an audible yesterday with the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto blowing into southern Ontario.

The Argos, who face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats tomorrow night in the annual Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne Stadium, originally were scheduled to practice at the University of Toronto's Erindale Campus late yesterday morning, but switched to an early morning workout because of the forecast of heavy rains.

The call was a good one as the rain held off until the afternoon and the players responded well to the switch.

"It's a mature group," Clemons said about his team. "We're proud of them. The guys got in early."

The buzz about tomorrow's game centres around Toronto starting quarterback Damon Allen, who is only 164 yards short of Warren Moon's career mark for most yards in pro football (70,553). Allen most will likely surpass Moon in Hamilton, but the Argos have planned a day in his honour on Sept. 9 when the Tiger-Cats visit the Rogers Centre. Moon, a former CFL and NFL star, also is expected to be in attendance.

The other major point of interest for the 5-5 Argos is the status of starting running back John Avery, who injured his right ankle last Saturday night against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Avery has not been able to practice much this week, although he hopes to be able to play tomorrow. But while he is optimistic, Clemons is not.

"We haven't counted him out, but I'm pretty adamant (he won't play)," Clemons said. "He said, 'Just don't cross me out.' So I haven't yet."

In Avery's absence, the Argos likely will have two Canadians start in the backfield, Jeff Johnson and Bryan Crawford, who will start for the first time. Crawford has been used mostly on special teams.

"When you go from college to the pros, most people have to do a little grunt work," Clemons said of Crawford's big chance. "Damon had to do some grunt work. He's getting to be the world's leading passer, but he was behind this little fellow named (Matt) Dunigan for a little while before he got a chance to get in and get his chance to his thing full-time. And so, most players go through that and it's a natural part of the process."

If Avery is unable to play, Johnson likely will get the ball a lot, but the Toronto native is not feeling any extra pressure.

"The pressure's the same every game," Johnson said. "Just do your job, be prepared and if you're prepared, there's no pressure ..."

Clemons also will have to make an adjustment on the offensive line, with Bernard Williams leaving the team to return home to Atlanta, after being charged with sexual assault earlier in the week. Cliff Washburn will come off the development list to start on the line. Also expected to come off the injury list and play tomorrow will be corner back Jordan Younger and defensive back Clifford Ivory.


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