Bishop no longer a CFL tease

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

Michael Bishop has waited his entire football life for a day like yesterday.

A coronation of sorts, partially dictated by circumstance, mostly by performance.

He is the Argonauts' starting quarterback, now and into the future. He is the man. There is no sure-thing Casey Printers out there to sign anymore. There is no old-legend Damon Allen ready to play. There is no other guy.

There is just Bishop.

And that's a good thing for him, for the Argos and for a football franchise which needs an infusion of both energy and excitement.

Had this been wintertime in this the year of a home Grey Cup game, and had Printers been available to all teams in the Canadian Football League, you just know the Argos would have been the last team standing.

You just know that.

This isn't the winter, but it is the first season of a CFL salary cap and, suddenly, being responsible matters. Yesterday, there were the pathetically desperate cap-clearing Ticats in Hamilton, ready to pounce on Printers.

Bishop isn't making half a million a season to quarterback the Argos, not even half that much. But with a most unusual array of skills -- a rocket arm, running back speed, a tight end body, a new-found maturity, a developing comprehension -- he can now dance with Casey Printers, maybe even out-quarterback him.

"We cut him three times, you know," said Adam Rita, the Argos' general manager, known for his patience, talking of Bishop. "I guess that tells you we loved him one day, but not the next.

"With any quarterback, every day you're on trial. You love him today, you hate him tomorrow, you wait to see how you feel the next day. With Bishop, you were always waiting for him to arrive. His career had so much promise. I didn't know if it would happen. He didn't know if it would happen. And then, all of a sudden, the switch came on."

This is Michael Bishop's ninth year of pro football, his sixth with the Argos. The man is no overnight sensation. In all, he has played in four different leagues for seven different teams in three different countries. All that since finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting to a running back named Ricky Williams. Once, he was listed ahead of Tom Brady on the depth chart of the New England Patriots.

Now, he is 31 years old and before now was forever a tease. If only he could figure it out, coaches would say. If only he could lead. If only he could read defences. If only...

"A lot of things have happpened to change Michael, a lot of circumstances," Rita said. "Sooner or later, people realize there is only going to be so many opportunities. You have to find out why things aren't working. You have to look inward.

"I think Michael was deeply affected when his mom passed away last year. I think he went through a lot about his career, like: 'Maybe I should listen more. Maybe the common denominator all these years (why it wasn't working out) is me'.

"A lot of people were critical of Michael, but the most critical was himself."

Now Printers, the quarterback of choice last winter and just about every winter before that, is playing down the highway and Bishop is more than just a quarterback of salary- capped circumstance. He is the legitimate choice. And there is a certain excitement about that.

The kind of plays he is capable of making -- and the Argos need to get Arland Bruce III back and find a way to get more balls to Andre Talbot -- no one, including Printers, can manage in Canadian football. He can flick the ball 60 yards while on the run with almost no effort at all. There is still a certain high-wire element to Bishop's play, but now he has the conviction of his team to work his way through his mistakes. This isn't a one-night stand.

It is suddenly Michael Bishop's time, Michael Bishop's team. It's taken forever to get here, but the wait has been worth it.


Videos

Photos