Argos vow to keep most of current roster intact

TERRY KOSHAN

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

The biggest off-season change for the Argonauts probably has happened with the resignation of head coach Don Matthews.

"I would like to think so," general manager Adam Rita, who is under contract through 2009, said when asked whether most of the player personnel moves have been made. "Unfortunately we had to (reshape the roster) during the course of the year. We were able to make the bold statements and get that done. Physically we are in good shape, now we just have to be a team. You can't get better if you keep changing."

In all likelihood, the front office will remain intact. Those who could be in for a worrisome winter are men such as offensive co-ordinator Steve Buratto and defensive co-ordinator Kavis Reed. It would be no surprise if the incoming coach wants to hire his own assistants.

There have been whispers of dissension in the Argos front office, specifically between Rita and CEO Michael (Pinball) Clemons. Does Rita have a solid working relationship with his boss?

"If there is strain, it is imagined," Rita said. "Things get said that sometimes are misconstrued. There is adversity in relationships, but one thing about football is you have to stick together."

It's clear there is no shortage of opinion that goes into the football decisions.

"I don't think anything is my sole decision," Rita said. "I think I have a strong vote. I would hate to think this is an absolute dictatorship. We have a lot of expert people around here."

The Argos don't have a long list of free agents, but two who could walk are receiver Arland Bruce, who led the team with nine touchdowns and 1,210 yards, and linebacker Willie Pile, whose 75 tackles were a team-high. Both men are integral pieces.

A couple of veterans, linebacker Mike O'Shea and offensive guard Jude St. John, indicated they are not ready to retire. The Argos likely will pick up the options on both, but that does no guarantee they will be back.

Rita called O'Shea a "warrior" but did not give a definitive answer on whether he wants O'Shea back, saying it is a decision that will be made later.

Said O'Shea: "I missed a lot of tackles that other years might have been masked a little bit in the system we play. I feel pretty fresh, but that is due to the fact I did not play as much."

Defensive linemen Walter Curry and Claude Harriott, defensive back Jason Shivers, tackle Brian Ramsay and safety Will Poole played well enough to keep jobs next year. Reggie McNeal will be switched back to his natural position of quarterback. Expect kicker Mike Vanderjagt to return.

The happiest man yesterday might have been quarterback Kerry Joseph, who will start camp next spring as the starter.

"I'm looking forward to coming back," Joseph said. "I think things are really looking up for us."


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