Belli won't change style

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

Adriano Belli insists he won't step back from the edge.

As for going over it again? Well, hard to say.

The Argos nose tackle has little choice but to be a good boy when Toronto, still smarting after a beating last week to their provincial rivals, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, takes on the Eskimos in Edmonton tomorrow night. Belli was bounced from the game against the Ticats for bopping a Hamilton offensive lineman in the face.

Belli has a history of being excused involuntarily from CFL matches. Prior to last Thursday, it most recently happened in Week 17 last year against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"I don't apologize for the way I play out there," Belli said. "Half the time coaches will praise me for hustling to the ball and throwing guys around, and every once in a while when you play on the edge things happen."

Argos head coach Rich Stubler loves Belli, loves the emotion Belli wears on his sleeve, loves the leadership Belli brings into the locker room and on the field. And like a father who has to bring the hammer down on his sometimes-unruly teenager, Stubler wishes Belli would rein it in more because he knows Belli is much more important when he is on the field. But why can some control themselves and others can't?

"I don't know," Stubler said. "That's a hard question, a life question ... He is an emotional leader and I want him to play on the edge. (But) I want him to be smarter than that."

Belli, who was fined by the league, said he was using self-defence when he "jammed" Ticats centre Marwan Hage, who happens to be a close pal off the field, in the face. At 6-foot-5 and 292 pounds, Belli might make the average neighbourhood tough guy turn tail. In reality, he is about as threatening as a cuddly teddy bear away from the gridiron, playing host to children who are patients at the Hospital for Sick Children at Argos home games and helping to run his family's meat packing and distribution firm in Mississauga.

"I love offensive linemen, they are all beautiful, fat little piggies," Belli said. "I enjoy the battle of the sport. Sometimes I wish the refs would just let us play. I know they have a job to do. My main focus above anything is winning on defence and winning as a team. I have to try to stay in the game."

Though there are bound to be some things in football that are offside -- Belli called Jason Jimenez of the B.C. Lions, who forced Anthony Gargiulo of the Calgary Stampeders into retirement with a controversial hit last season, a punk -- the league does not view Belli as a dirty player. Director of officiating Tom Higgins supported by the call by umpire Bill Hagans that led to Belli's ejection last week, but though Belli has a history of losing it, he doesn't think Belli wears a target on the field.

"Mr. Belli is not a malicious person. He is not a dirty player," Higgins said.

NOTES

Dominique Dorsey, who gained 213 yards on special teams against Hamilton, was named the CFL's special teams player of the week, an honour he has earned five times with the Argos despite playing just 15 games with the club ... Cornerback Willie Middlebrooks, suffering from a right foot injury, will not play tomorrow. Receiver Bethel Johnson (ankle) will be a game-time decision.


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