Bowl champ set for debut

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

Given its backdrop, no points will be at stake in the standings when the Argos open the pre-season tomorrow night in Montreal.

But to dismiss the exercise as pointless would be foolish, at least in the eyes of receiver Bethel Johnson.

For Johnson, tomorrow's tilt against the Als marks the first time the two-time Super Bowl champion will line up on a CFL field in a game situation.

"I'm just excited to get back in a competitive mode,'' Johnson said yesterday. "I'm just ready to go."

A knee injury forced Johnson to the sidelines last year, but it would be difficult to notice any lingering effects when one watches Johnson turn a routine pass into a long gain, albeit in training camp.

A healthy and productive Johnson will go a long way in kick-starting an Argos' offence that will feature many new faces this season. Johnson likes what he has seen on the field, but now he'll get a glimpse in a competitive setting.

"I think we're coming along fine,'' he said. "We're learning as we go and we're working well together as a unit.

"I'm just excited to see what happens."

From an offensive standpoint, Rich Stubler believes the Argos are much better positioned going into the exhibition schedule than they were last year.

The rookie head coach wasn't about to reveal which quarterback will start tomorrow, only to say that all four in camp will get some reps.

That means Kerry Joseph, the CFL's reigning most outstanding player, Michael Bishop, last year's incumbent, and prospects Reggie McNeal and Cody Pickett will get some playing time.

When asked to assess Joseph's play, Stubler is as succinct as he is effusive in describing the former Saskatchewan signal caller.

"Just like the MVP,'' Stubler said. "Michael is doing the same thing.

"We have two very good quarterbacks who can carry us through the year."

Stubler built the Argos' bend-but-don't defence, a unit that returns virtually every starter from last year's stellar group.

The one question mark resides at strong-side corner, a position left vacant following the off-season trade of Jordan Younger to Edmonton.

Khalil Carter has taken most of the first-team reps during camp.

Whether it's Carter, Johnson or any other player who has looked good in camp, Stubler has been around the football block long enough to understand one of sport's truisms.

"Until you turn the lights on, we've got no idea,'' Stubler said. "It's always different when they turn the lights on."

Stubler plans to showcase each player who dresses tomorrow, regardless of position or experience.

With two pre-season contests to get ready for Stubler believes he'll have ample opportunity to evaluate his team. On June 21, CFL rosters must be reduced to 46 players. The Argos' season opener is June 27 in Winnipeg.

ACHES AND PAINS

WR T.J. Acree (groin) did not practise yesterday and won't be making the train ride to Montreal ... RB Da'shawn Thomas (hamstring) will not travel with the team as well.


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