The Argos needed a wake-up call when they returned to practice yesterday after the bye week. Instead, the struggling CFL club was staggered by a punch to the face.
The release of all-star safety Orlondo Steinauer sent a shock wave through the locker room, which was one of the reasons for the move, Argos brass later acknowledged.
"Nobody is safe," said Kenny Wheaton, who will move from defensive back to replace Steinauer in the backfield. "This is a guy who has been an all-star on every position in the back end in this league. It's tough. We're losing a friend."
With a lousy 3-5 record, the Argos' defensive woes have been well-documented. If Steinauer was part of the overall problem, he was a not a big part of it.
"There are fall guys all the time," said Steinauer, who was surprisingly upbeat just minutes after getting official word that his Argos career was done. "I am not the first person this has happened to and I won't be the last.
"I don't think they are on pinning (the poor defensive play) on me, per se. It's just that they are starting to cut back and I was the guy."
Argos head coach Rich Stubler wants his team to improve against the run and moving Wheaton into Steinauer's spot was the first step. Among the trickle-down effects could be more playing time for rookie defensive back Jason Shivers, while veterans Mike O'Shea and Chuck Winters might see their time scaled back.
Stubler said Steinauer, 35, a defensive co-captain, was not a scapegoat.
"Absolutely not," Stubler said. "Doing this was the hardest thing I have ever done. I consider him like a son.
"I am going in a different direction. We wanted somebody on the inside who is going to be an enforcer, and our enforcer is Kenny Wheaton. We need to control first down, which we are not."
Steinauer -- who unlike Noel Prefontaine, Khalil Carter and most recently Michael Bishop did not slam the Argos on his way out -- said he thought of the members of the defence as family.
But as almost always is the case, the business side got in the way, though the fact that Steinauer's contract is guaranteed after Monday's game against Hamilton was not a factor.
"It's no different than when they hand you a contract and say they want you to be a part of this," Steinauer said. "I could say exactly how I feel, but the bottom line is I am no longer an Argonaut."