Argos face challenges

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

Maintaining public interest in a football club that was 10 games under .500 last season has proven to be a challenge for Argonauts president and CEO Bob Nicholson.

Nicholson, who took over three weeks ago, said season ticket sales are lagging in comparison to where they were at this point last year.

"We're slightly behind, but in group sales, we're up 500%," Nicholson said yesterday during a conference call that included Argos general manager Adam Rita and coach Bart Andrus. "We feel we have a lot of time to sell season tickets.

"It's a combination of things. There's a wait-and-see attitude in some fans who were disappointed last year. And we know the economy will impact some people."

The Argos averaged just over 29,000 fans at the Rogers Centre in 2008, with season-ticket sales in the 12,000-14,000 range. Those who do venture to games this season will witness, the Argos hope, a different player in quarterback Kerry Joseph.

The 35-year-old, who will be on the field with the other quarterbacks and Argos rookies on Wednesday before the rest of the veterans hit the gridiron on June 7, struggled through much of his first year in Double Blue. Rarely did he get much protection from the offensive line, and when he was trapped in the pocket, escaping to get out of trouble wasn't an option.

Andrus, who has no Canadian Football League game experience, has spent the 41/2 months since his hiring trying to get a grip on all things CFL. At the same time, with a background steeped in the offensive side of the football but without getting down to business with Joseph and the receivers, he has tried to devise plays that will exploit Joseph's ability to roll out and hit his targets.

Rita did his part, strengthening the offensive line with the off-season additions of Rob Murphy and Dominic Picard.

"At times Kerry didn't have time to get out of the pocket, and that's something we have addressed in personnel," Andrus said. "We've designed some things to get him out, and we will probably do that a little more."

Joseph will be one of several Argos in the spotlight when camp opens. Under scrutiny will be the battle for kick returner, a spot vacated when Dominique Dorsey signed with the Washington Redskins. Former NFLer Jerome Mathis and William Judson, who has agreed to terms with the Argos, will be in the running for the starting role. Receiver Arland Bruce also will get some plays at the position.

Briefly

The Argos have signed five of their 2009 draft picks -- receiver Matt Lambros, linebacker James Green, offensive tackle Zachary Pollari, offensive lineman Gordon Sawler and defensive back Brad Crawford. Etienne Legare, taken second overall, was signed on draft day ... The Hamilton Tiger-Cats signed quarterback Jason Boltus.


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