The more the merrier, or in the Argonauts' case, the more competitive.
That's the hope, at least, as the Argos yesterday took full advantage of the option of expanding their practice roster to 12 players, signing nine and releasing two.
Among the newcomers are offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker, a first-round pick in the NFL in 2001 who was a starter for the 2003 Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers; defensive lineman Duane Clemons, a first-round pick in 1996 by the Minnesota Vikings who has spent the past two years operating a health and wellness centre in California; and a pair of players, defensive tackle Darrell Lee and defensive end Daryl Whittington, who caught the eye of Argos brass when they attended camp with the Boatmen in 2007.
The prize of the lot appears to be Walker, who has been on the radar of assistant general manager Greg Mohns since May, when Mike Pearson told the club he was retiring. The club also is trying to sign offensive tackle Jonta Woodard, who was released by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last Tuesday after starting in the Ticats' first nine games this season. CFL teams can carry a maximum of 12 players on the practice roster until Oct. 7.
"We hope Kenyatta is going to add some wealth of experience on the offensive line," Mohns said. "Defensively, we have four guys and we hope to find one or two players out of those four who will stick with us."
The Argos usually don't go for many roster changes when there is room for expansion but this year is different, for several reasons.
The revamped defensive scheme calls for more bodies along the line and Argos management wanted to see how some fresh faces would fare. Injuries are taking their toll, with Michael Fletcher (foot), Riall Johnson (adductor) and Jerome Davis (pectoral) among the casualties, though linebacker Willie Pile, who did not play in Montreal on Sunday, said he would be in uniform Friday night when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are at the Rogers Centre for the CFL's first retro game.
And the simple fact the inconsistent Boatmen are 4-6 also played into the decision to look into every nook and cranny.
"It's something we needed to do, to get a little bit better," head coach Rich Stubler said. "In the past years we have been good enough that we have not (had) to sign people for now."
There's no question the Argos are entering a crucial stage in their schedule. They were 4-6 a year ago and then won seven of their final eight games to finish 11-7 and take first place in the East Division. Though the Alouettes have a stranglehold on that spot with a 7-3 mark, the Argos want to put a bigger cushion between themselves and the Bombers and Ticats, who are cozied up in the East cellar with 2-8 records.
"We need to get the swagger back, and we can," Stubler said. "(The game against Winnipeg) has huge implications for us and we need to play as well as we possibly can."
THE 2008 ARGOS AIRLIFT
Yesterday was the first day in a month-long window in which CFL clubs may expand their practice rosters to 12 players from seven. The Argos released OL Mike Galassi and LB Andre Maddox, and added the following nine players:
PLAYER MOST RECENT TEAM
DL Duane Clemons Cincinnati Bengals, 2005
DT Walter Curry cut by San Fransisco 49ers in camp
S/L Matt Hewitt cut by Buffalo Bills in camp
OT Brandon Joyce cut by Minnesota Vikings in camp
DT Darrell Lee cut by Argos in 2007 camp
CB Will Poole released by Argos after 2007 season
OT Chris Van Zeyl Alouettes' practice roster, 2008
OT Kenyatta Walker cut by Carolina Panthers in camp
DE Daryl Whittington cut by Argos in 2007 camp