Argos' D takes hit

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

Kenny Wheaton has been the Argos' top defensive player, an anchor in the secondary whose primary purpose is to punish opponents.

As the Argos turn the page with the return of head coach Don Matthews, Wheaton's season has taken a turn for the worse, a development that is certain to be felt on a unit that is under mounting scrutiny.

For the first time yesterday, the tough-as-nails Wheaton admitted he has been playing with a bum shoulder, an injury first diagnosed in training camp.

In the latter stages of Rich Stubler's ill-fated run as Argos head coach, Wheaton was shifted from halfback to free safety, where he often lined up near the line of scrimmage as a run-stopper and took on linemen nearly twice his size.

During Sunday's loss in Montreal, Wheaton's shoulder finally caved in and now Wheaton isn't sure what, if anything, he has left to give the Argos.

"The shoulder just went dead,'' Wheaton said. "I had no strength. I couldn't raise it.

"I knew sooner or later my shoulder would give out. I was buying some time for a few weeks."

Barring a medical miracle, Wheaton will miss tomorrow's game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Wheaton was well on his way to having a career season after coming off a season in which he was named a CFL all-star, a career-first for the six-year pro.

"I play the way I play,'' he said. "The shoulder will go out. That's life. That's football. It's painful, but I'll deal with it."

Matthews continues to get a feel for the team and the roster he inherited.

He's slowly grasping the team's terminology, but Matthews admits he's beginning to tweak the defence.

A rumour that does have some credence has the Argos reaching out to veteran free safety Orlondo Steinauer, who became a scapegoat under the Stubler regime and was subsequently released.

Wheaton's style at free safety doesn't fit the Matthews mould, which is more suited to Steinauer's freelance style.

Assuming he's healthy, Wheaton can line up anywhere in the defensive backfield, but he's best suited at halfback.

Matthews isn't about to tip the team's hand when it comes to the look of the roster for tomorrow's tilt. He did say the Argos are likely to add an import offensive lineman to the active roster.

The Argos, it seems, plan to run the ball more, which is long overdue.

With left tackle Jerome Davis banged up, the logical move would be to activate Kenyatta Walker, who was added to the practice roster Monday.

Depending on how the Argos tweak their ratio, it wouldn't surprise anyone if an import offensive lineman is used as a backup.

Walker, 29, is a former first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who earned a Super Bowl ring.

BLACKBALLED

After undergoing micro-fracture surgery to his right knee two years ago, NFL teams have basically black-balled Walker, who is hoping to disprove the naysayers.

Given his pedigree, Walker is more than capable of lining up tomorrow and being a presence. His biggest adjustment is the one yard that separates the line of scrimmage in three-down football.

"It's a little different,'' Walker said. "But it's still football.

"You line up and you play. I've been training, but there's only so much you can do with a trainer."


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