CFL dream weaver

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

The ball arched through the air and Jamal White's contorted body collided with the turf, the object of his affections slipping off his finger tips.

"Today, I learned I'm not a receiver. I'm a running back," said White, who, despite sitting second on the Cleveland Browns' career list for receptions by a running back, finds himself in football limbo.

Andre Durie cuts, loses his footing? Is it his knee? Or a patch of loose turf? Once one of Canadian football's most feared offensive stars, a knee injury has limited him to two games since the 2004 season. "I think my chances to stick are as good as anyone else's once I start showing them that I'm still able; that I'm still the same player I was before."

Maybe he's convinced himself. Maybe he hasn't. He has less than a week, maybe, to prove it to the Argonauts.

"Playing football is constantly on my mind," he said. "It's my life and I want to make it a career, too."

But, like White, he is in football limbo.

On a hot mid-afternoon at Erindale campus, the Toronto Argonauts' mini-camp for quarterbacks and rookies is underway. What happens between now and Saturday night will reverberate through the lives of these young men.

"Fear of failure? You never get over that," laughed White, who has played for six NFL teams and been released five times. "The fear is what drives me."

No athlete ever is in total control of his destiny. Many won't admit fear, indecision or the sleepless nights that come when your halfway into a career that knows no home. Like Tom Arth. The Cleveland native has played in seven countries with stops in the NFL at Indianapolis and Green Bay. He's 26 with a wife, a daughter and a dream that is so far down the Argos depth chart you couldn't find it with sonar.

He thought he would back up Brett Favre in Green Bay last season.

"I got released. I was in my car, packed up. It was the day before we were supposed to report and I'd been on the road about 10 minutes when the phone rang.

"I just had a baby a couple months old and it was, 'Ah, man! What am I going to do?'

What you do is become an Argonaut. And dream again.

"For players this probably is the most nervous time," he said. "My livelihood depends on what happens the next few weeks. If you make a mistake you can't dwell on it."

Still, every missed throw, every fumbled ball, every stumble could be the one that turns a football career into life as an insurance salesman.

Argos assistant general manager Greg Mohns looks more like a cuddly teddy bear than The Grim Reaper but he has been doing the dirty work of notifying players of their release since his days with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1983.

"In the NFL they have a term: The Turk,'' Mohns said. "You try to have a little compassion. It's not pleasant because you're dealing with a person's livelihood.

"But you don't want to get into a big dialogue because the decision has been made and nothing is going to change that."

Player reactions?

Mostly resignation. Some get angry.

"I had one quarterback (he wouldn't reveal his identity) just break down into crocodile tears. That's tough to see a grown man cry.

"It's funny, he's now an assistant coach in the NFL but it was tough for him to take, and for me to do. Normally guys know, they understand, they realize at some point it's going to happen to them."


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