Pivotal move for Argos

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Beginning today, Damon Allen's Grey Cup rings, CFL records and strong ties with Argos management count for next to nothing.

Nor does Eric Crouch's Heisman Trophy.

Or Michael Bishop's monster arm and his stellar relief appearances in the 2006 playoffs.

Or Mike McMahon's days as an NFL starter.

Or Tom Arth's time backing up one of the best in the business Indianapolis Colts superstar, Peyton Manning.

Beginning this afternoon on a nondescript field at the U of T's Erindale campus, it may as well be game day for the group of five gunning to be 2007 Argos starting quarterback.

There is no depth chart at football's most important position as the team begins a journey it hopes will conclude in the 95th Grey Cup in its home stadium.

OPEN SEASON

It may be the pre pre-season--the main camp gets underway for real on Sunday -- but the Argos coaching staff has declared it open season at quarterback.

"Beginning now, every pass counts," new Argos offensive co-ordinator Steve Buratto said yesterday in an interview. "Everything's going to be very calculated. We'll chart everything they do. They can't just come to practice and wing it out there."

With just two pre-season games, there may not be the luxury of giving all five actual game time. Considering the first of those is a week from Saturday, every down in every practice will be at a premium.

"They have to prove to us they deserve to get game action." Buratto said. "And if they don't get in a game, they don't get the job."

Officially, the next three days are what the team is calling a quarterbacks/rookie camp. But with some 20 receivers also in on the action, it's an early start on the most important decision facing Buratto and head coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons .

There is a school of thought that suggests Allen, 43, should have to lose the job rather than win it.

VETERAN COACH

It would certainly be the safe out for Buratto to go with Allen at least when the season kicks off on June 28. But the veteran coach is much more ambitious and realizes what is at stake for a team with an outstanding defence but an offence that languished in 2006.

Hence, no guarantees regardless of credentials.

"Damon finds himself in a circumstance a bit unusual for him," Buratto said. "He's always competed for it and didn't want the job given to him. (But) there's not too many years he came off a sub-standard end of a season that he had which included being injured for a part of it.

"Then there is always a question of what point do his skills diminish? He is a remarkable anomaly, but at some point that will leave him whether he wants to admit it or not."

As for the competition, Buratto believes he will be grading a fivesome as good as any ever seen at a CFL camp. There is no denying Bishop has a massive arm, but at times has been easily rattled.

Crouch spent part of last season injured, but took the time to familiarize himself with a new game. The offence he ran at Nebraska has enough in common with a creative CFL attack to make him an intriguing darkhorse.

If enough of Manning rubbed off on Arth, he could at least move into contention for a backup job. And in his brief playing stints in the NFL, McMahon has hinted at an athletic style that could translate nicely to the CFL.

"The real challenge we have as a staff is we don't have a lot of time," Buratto said. "If they don't step up and take a firm hold of the opportunity, it's going to go by them."


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