Allen calls it a career

Damon Allen leaves professional football as the all-time leading passer with 72,381 yards. SUN...

Damon Allen leaves professional football as the all-time leading passer with 72,381 yards. SUN MEDIA/Jack Boland

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

After joking yesterday that he was retiring from the CFL so he could apply to become the coach and general manager of the Maple Leafs, Damon Allen threw out a bit of a curveball.

What if, two or three months from now, Allen gets a call from a CFL club that is in a quarterback crunch?

"My ears are open," Allen said at the Turf Lounge, where his wife Desiree, children and several Argos players and members of the front office gathered to hear him announce his retirement after 23 CFL seasons. "I will be watching the league. I wouldn't be surprised (if a call came). But whether I play, that is a totally different story. To foresee the future and to say no to it right now, everyone has to listen."

Still, the chance of Allen returning is slim. He was strong in his assertion that he did not want to become another Michael Jordan, who retired and unretired to the point that it became tedious.

"People say his legacy is tainted because he went back and forth," Allen, who was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 1984 but chose football, said. "I want to be one who says once I am retired, I am retired."

There's no disputing the mark Allen, who will stay with the Argos as a special advisor to CEO Michael (Pinball) Clemons, has left on the game. The 44-year-old's pro-football record of 72,381 passing yards has been well-documented, and he also has the most passing touchdowns (394) and pass completions (5,158) in CFL history.

Those who argue Allen is the greatest quarterback in CFL history might want to remember the role his longevity played in his statistics. Only once, in 2005, was Allen named the league's most outstanding player, and he was a division all-star just three times.

But his teammates will remember the athlete whose clutch performances became commonplace. Twice Allen was named the Grey Cup MVP, most recently in 2004. Before that game in Ottawa, which the Argos won 27-19 against the B.C. Lions, Allen told his teammates in an emotional speech that he was playing for each of them.

"It was the last moment before the game and he inspired guys to play beyond themselves, for everyone on the team," receiver Andre Talbot said. "He really took control of the game after almost being knocked out of it. When a quarterback wins you a championship, you remember him for the rest of your life."

NO CAMP WORRIES

Allen's departure means the Argos don't have to worry about a cloud hanging over camp, which starts today when rookies and quarterbacks report and begins in earnest on Sunday.

Kerry Joseph and Michael Bishop will be in a two-man race to start at quarterback, with Joseph the pre-camp favourite.

"We felt (Allen's retirement) was going to happen," Argos head coach Rich Stubler said. "I've had many conversations with Damon. I have been with him for three of his four Grey Cups. (But) if I died (today), there would be a guy sitting in my chair (tomorrow). There is a time to move on for everybody."

Allen began to focus on hanging up his shoulder pads following the Argos' loss in the Eastern final last fall.

"The reality is that it's a young man's game," Allen said. "I understand the business of it. I've had the time of my life, and I will still be part of the game, but I don't have to take any more hits or play in pressure-packed situations."


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