Joseph braces for rough ride

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

Eric Tillman would hate to see Kerry Joseph do it again.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager was on the edge of his seat on Sunday as he watched the Argonauts quarterback pick apart the Edmonton Eskimos defence and lead Toronto to a come-from-behind victory at the Rogers Centre.

The performance brought Canadian Football League offensive player-of-the-week honours to Joseph's doorstep yesterday, recognition which did not surprise Tillman.

"I brought Kerry into the CFL in Ottawa (in 2003) and that was the single best game I've seen him play," Tillman said from Regina. "He was incredibly accurate and he can alter a game with his legs, which is what he did."

The Argos will be in Regina on Sunday to take on the Roughriders and already the hype has started: Joseph, the CFL's most outstanding player in 2007, returns to Mosaic Stadium for the first time since winning the Grey Cup with the Roughriders last fall.

When Tillman and Joseph could not agree on a contract, Joseph was traded to the Argos in March.

In three days, Joseph expects to be booed.

"I know it is going to be a hostile environment," Joseph said. "I'm an opponent going into their stadium. They are not going to cheer for me.

"I have not been looking at (the game) for a while, but now that it is here, it's going to be fun."

Tillman was not seeking to trade Joseph, but that changed when the quarterback wanted to re-negotiate his contract.

Prior to 2007, Joseph had taken a pay cut of approximately $125,000 US to help put the Roughriders in better financial shape regarding the salary cap. After making about $220,000 last season (and with a raise to $240,000 scheduled for 2008), Joseph wanted to get bumped back to the range of $350,000 a season. But that was a sum the Roughies could not afford.

As it was, Saskatchewan brass was confident in going forward with QBs Marcus Crandell and Darian Durant, a decision that has worked out well given the Riders' 4-0 start.

The Argos were the lone club that could meet Joseph's contract wishes, and the trade was done. Neither Tillman nor Joseph harbours ill feelings.

"It's a business," Joseph said. "I'm not going to put that much into (a game against a team that traded him)."

Tillman concurred.

"It was a business decision," he said. "Sometimes you have to make a tough call, but we are delighted with the way things are going for us."

After four weeks, it seems clear that Joseph has settled into a groove with the 2-2 Argos, and put head coach Rich Stubler in the delighted category, too.

The offence clicked so well against Edmonton that rookie receiver Tyler Scott was runner-up for Canadian player of the week, and Stubler's relief with the play of Joseph and the offence is obvious.

"I'm excited about the progress our offence has made the past two weeks," the first-year head coach said. "It has been really good to watch the players take ownership of what they are doing.

"As a coach, you have to figure out who your leaders are. We have to be able to get those players to rise to the surface, and it has happened. I am very appreciative."


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