Football in Bishop's court

Michael takes centre stage today when the Argos play host to the Als. Veteran QB Damon Allen gets...

Michael takes centre stage today when the Argos play host to the Als. Veteran QB Damon Allen gets the day off as Bishop, Eric Crouch and Mike McMahon will audition first. (Toronto Sun file photo)

ROB LONGLEY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

Damon Allen would take exception to the description and has been doing everything in training camp to prove otherwise.

Argos coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons is playing coy but has offered some between-the-lines reading material to suggest it may be true.

Six days into training camp it's starting to appear that the Argos starting quarterback job is Michael Bishop's to lose.

That theory gets some steam in this afternoon's pre-season opener against the Montreal Alouettes (2 p.m., Rogers Centre.)

While Allen, the 43-year-old incumbent with no guarantees, won't dress, Bishop will be given the bulk of the snaps among the three quarterbacks in today's lineup.

If Bishop sinks this afternoon, Allen, Eric Crouch and Mike McMahon are back in the race.

If he swims, it's a two-man battle with Allen for the remainder of training camp with Bishop being the frontrunner.

"A lot of people are looking at this as pre-season, but I'm looking at it as a regular-season game," Bishop admitted yesterday after a brief team walkthrough at Erindale.

"This is an opportunity for me. If I go out there and play well, good things can happen. I know that I control what I do on the field and that's all I can ask for."

Clemons cautioned not to read too much into Allen not dressing. The veteran has had 22 CFL training camps and more film -- from what will likely be a sloppy exhibition -- will neither help, nor hurt his case.

But unlike past years when his record at least made him the man to beat, all it gets Allen this June is a roster spot and the right to fight for No. 1.

"We are going to try to come out of this game with the guy who is going to compete with Damon for No. 1," Clemons said yesterday. "Right now, Michael Bishop has probably played a little better than the other two guys so he will get a little more time so we can do the evaluation."

Bishop has been told he will likely play the bulk of the first and third quarters today. That will give Argos brass a chance to see how he handles the flow of a game.

From the moment he came on in relief of Allen in the East semi-final this past November, Bishop has been seen as the team's possible quarterback of the future.

He thrived in practice leading up to the East final against Montreal and again came on in relief of Allen, where that time his spirited late rally fell just short.

Getting Bishop to training camp without any guarantees took some work.

Clemons and team president Keith Pelley travelled to Grand Rapids, Mich. in April to convince him to leave his arena league team and report at the start of camp.

Presumably, included in that cajoling, was a guarantee he would have at the least a serious shot at the starting job.

"To be here from the first day helps," Bishop said.

"It's an opportunity to go out and see how the receivers run the routes and how they see my ball and catch my ball. It also gives me the opportunity to adjust."

Showing no sign of his age or the finger injury that bothered him last year, Allen has had a strong early camp with plenty of zip on his throws.

With incredible athletic skills, Bishop has been right there with him and the battle, it would seem, is on.

"In the back of my mind, I've always felt I had the ability to (be the starter)," Bishop said.

"Now I have the opportunity and I want to make it pay off."

The Argos feel the same way. All that is needed is for Bishop to prove he deserves it.


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