Pile can't face Als

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

MONTREAL -- The Argos' defence could be in a pile of trouble this afternoon.

The task of beating the East-leading Montreal Alouettes might be easier with the expectation that star back Avon Cobourne won't play, but the Argos will not have their leading tackler throwing his quickness around.

Willie Pile, who has become one of the main cogs on defence in his second CFL season, did not make the train trip yesterday morning, staying home to nurse a sprained ankle that he suffered last week against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Pile practised throughout the week, but it became clear he did not have enough strength in his ankle to turn properly.

Another casualty is fellow linebacker Michael Fletcher, who is out with a foot injury. Fletcher also practised during the week before it was evident he could not play either.

But Fletcher was getting less playing time in the new defensive schemes the Argos used unveiled against the Ticats. The absence of Pile will hurt more.

The 28-year-old has 39 defensive tackles and 10 on special teams, tops on the Argos in both categories.

Argos head coach Rich Stubler, however, was not quaking in his shoes after the Argos completed their walk-through at Molson Stadium.

"Everybody loses a guy or two," Stubler said. "It's just the nature of the game. People are going to get hurt and you have to trust (that) the 46 guys you have around are going to get you through."

But given the defensive weaknesses that have been exposed by their opponents this season, Pile's loss hardly is one the Boatmen can afford, especially as they tuck into the second half of 2008 in such a large game.

The Argos, who were bombed by the Alouettes three weeks ago at the Rogers Centre, desperately need a win. At 4-5, they are four points behind the Als, who lead the East Division with 12 points.

"Is it an important game? Absolutely," linebacker Mike O'Shea said. "We want to get them within striking distance. The goal is to get to the Grey Cup, and we don't want to let them run away on us."

Chuck Winters and Adrian Mayes should get more playing time, while Pete Hunter, signed by the team two weeks ago, has been activated from the practice roster. Stubler said he is reminded of Willie Middlebrooks, another NFL castoff, when he watches Hunter, who has played for the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns.

"I've guarded against some of the best guys in the business," Hunter, 28, said. "It's nothing against these guys, because they are great too. I'm just excited to play football again."

Hunter, like the rest of the Argos, won't have to worry about Cobourne, the league's top rusher, unless Als head coach Marc Trestman has a big change of heart. Cobourne hurt his right ankle against the B.C. Lions last week and did not take the majority of reps in practice the past several days, giving way to Mike Imoh.

"I will be shocked if Avon plays," Trestman said. "It's possible, but not likely. I am trying to leave myself a bit of a window for a dramatic recovery.

"I don't look at it as how we are going to replace him. I look at it as an excellent opportunity for a good football player to come in and help our team."


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