Crouch aiming to start

Eric Crouch spent his rookie season as an Argo nursing an injury and learning the CFL's ropes as a...

Eric Crouch spent his rookie season as an Argo nursing an injury and learning the CFL's ropes as a quarterback. Crouch hopes to parlay an off-season of hard work into more playing time. (Sun Media/Dave Thomas)

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

A funny thing happened to Eric Crouch last season when a career seemingly going nowhere could have hit a dead end.

For the first time since he was a star quarterback at Nebraska on his way to earning the 2001 Heisman Trophy, the pressure was off.

Recovering from a shoulder injury with little chance to move up the Argos depth chart, Crouch played the role of student. With time to pick up the nuances of the Canadian game, Crouch took a crash course in three-down football.

PRESSURE FREE

"It was so different for me," Crouch said this week during a pre-training camp workout with Argos teammates. "Throughout my career, I was always in pressure competing.

"After the injury, it was a little more pressure free and it gave me a little more time to focus, watch film, throw after practice while not worrying about playing in a game. Not that I liked or enjoyed that. But it was an opportunity to grow and understand this (the Canadian) game."

Crouch continued his CFL post-graduate work this off-season. Soon after Steve Buratto was named the Argos offensive coordinater, Crouch got his hand on Calgary Stampeders game tape from 2006 to study his new coach.

After learning the formations and the style of offence Buratto ran in Calgary, Crouch became even more enthused at the prospect of reviving his career.

"I just think it's exciting to know the kind of a co-ordinator he is," said Crouch, who played in three Argos games last year.

"Where I've been successful, the coaches understand me and implement a system that works for me. I believe Steve's got that system.

"He gets the quarterbacks involved, gets them to make plays by buying time. That's my style, that's why I'm here. I came (to Canada) to show that I can play the position."

When he was a U.S. college star with the Cornhuskers, Crouch ran the option to perfection.

While his size and questions of his arm strength conspired against an NFL career, the 28-year-old vows it doesn't mean his playing days are over.

"That (CFL) style is what I did in college," said Crouch, who was selected 95th overall by the St. Louis Rams in the 2002 NFL draft as a receiver. "The NFL is not so reliant on it."

When quarterbacks report to camp in two weeks, Crouch will have his hands full.

The CFL's career passing leader, Damon Allen is back at age 43 as is last year's backup, Michael Bishop, and off-season signees Mike McMahon and Tom Arth.

But now in his second season as an Argo, Crouch feels armed and ready.

Off-season hernia surgery followed by speed and conditioning coach Desai Williams' boot camp has him feeling better than he has in years.

"I would like to think that I've got a bit of a jump because I've been studying pretty hard," Crouch said.

HIGH EXPECTATIONS

"The reason I am here is to play and be the starter. I set high expectations for myself and I think they are realistic.

"I understand Damon has been here for years and he's been the starter.

"But I also understand they're looking for someone to replace him. That shows me there is opportunity and I'm going to do everything I can to take advantage of it."


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