Argos' fate in QB's hands

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

A religious sort, Argos quarterback Kerry Joseph spent the bye week at his Louisiana home praying and meditating.

But whether the man upstairs answers Joseph's call or the team continues its season from hell, it's now clear that the quarterback will have his fingerprints on how the season turns out for the club.

With the trading of Michael Bishop to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday, the Argos management and coaching staff have told Joseph he is Toronto's no-doubt-about-it No. 1 quarterback.

"All I think about is getting this thing turned around," Joseph said yesterday as the Argos gathered for practice following a bye week. "The trading (of Bishop) is not like a weight lifted off my shoulder. My whole thought process throughout the week off was how I can be a leader and how I can help get this thing turned around. That's the thing I can control."

The dealing of Bishop, together with the surprise release yesterday of all-star safety Orlondo Steinauer, underlines the kick in the butt that Argos head coach Rich Stubler knew his team needed after compiling a 3-5 record prior to the break.

The idea that serious football in the CFL doesn't really start until Labour Day weekend -- the Argos play in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats on Monday in the so-called Labour Day Classic -- was thrown aside by Stubler.

"We need to understand the sense of urgency that we have right now," Stubler said. "We need to have that sense of urgency. We have (started slowly) every year and I don't have my finger on the pulse for that. Hopefully, our sense of urgency changes at this point."

That will start with Joseph, who has acknowledged that his play after winning the 2007 CFL most outstanding player award with the Roughriders has not been good. Now, Joseph won't have to worry much about getting the hook. Although Joseph said that had not been an issue, Cody Pickett, the new second-stringer, won't be beating down his door.

Reggie McNeal, the third-string quarterback, will continue at wide receiver for now.

Joseph denied a report he told teammates he wanted to be traded after he was pulled in the Argos' final game before the bye week, a loss to the Montreal Alouettes.

"I don't know where that report came from," Joseph said. "There is no truth to it."

Bishop criticized the Argos for a unrealistic plan of using two quarterbacks on a rotating basis, and had said he was lied to about the situation.

But he backed off a bit yesterday while speaking to reporters in Regina.

"This is a fresh start for me," Bishop said. "Everything that has gone on in Toronto is in the past. I want to make an impact."

CRUNCH TIME

Players who were asked said there was not a division created by the tandem of Joseph and Bishop.

But Stubler put forth a flimsy notion when he was asked about his original intent of using both men, whom he often referred to as a pair of No. 1 quarterbacks.

"You all would not let me be an idealist," Stubler told a group of reporters. "You had to make sure both of those guys knew they were starters and you had to make sure that both of them knew that someone was getting slighted."

Whatever the case, the Argos have 10 games remaining and their fortunes will rest with Joseph.

The Argos' next three games are against East Division opponents.

"It's a crucial part of the season," Joseph said. "We have guys who can do the job."

New addition

The Argos added import defensive back Pete Hunter to the practice roster and might add a receiver in the coming days.


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