Tyler Ebell figured Miles Gorrell was pulling his leg.
But when Gorrell, the Argonauts' Canadian scouting co-ordinator, approached Ebell at the club's Mississauga training facility yesterday morning and told him to report to assistant general manager Greg Mohns with his playbook, he was dead serious.
And Ebell soon realized he was toast. In the midst of a comeback from a ruptured Achilles heel that kept him out of the entire 2008 season, Ebell was among 21 cuts as the Argos pared down to a 46-man roster by the CFL's deadline of 3 p.m.
"I thought he was joking, but that's the business," said Ebell, who was beaten for a backfield job by fellow running back Jarrett Payton, the son of NFL legend Walter Payton. "I have a lot of football left in me. I did not feel like I got an opportunity to really show myself. But I have no ill will toward anyone in the organization. Hopefully, somebody else will give me a chance."
Head coach Bart Andrus last week said Jamal Robertson would be his No. 1 running back and Payton, in the minds of Argos brass, had too good a camp to be released.
One surprise came when Andrus didn't axe Eddie Johnson or Justin Medlock. Andrus and his staff have not decided who will handle the kicking/punting chores, though he indicated that "it's a possibility" one will be released before the season opener Wednesday in Hamilton. It's virtually unheard of for a CFL team to carry two import kickers.
Among the other cuts were defensive back Pete Hunter, who started six games last year; wide receiver/returner Jerome Mathis, who was brought in to replace Dominique Dorsey but could not stay healthy; speedy receiver Todd Lowber, who suffered a concussion; and third-string quarterback Stephen Reaves.
Of the cuts, six can be added to the practice roster. That group will include Reaves, Andrus said.
Then there is all-star defensive end Jonathan Brown, who has been bothered by a back injury and will be placed on the nine-game injured list. The Argos have the option of calling back Brown before the nine games are over, but the reality is he might have played his last game as an Argo if he can't get healthy.
"I know what he is like at 100% and I did not see that guy," said Andrus, who coached Brown with Amsterdam of the defunct NFL Europe. "He has not been consistent on every down. We're trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.
"He is at the high end of his career, and this may be a glitch, but maybe not."
As the rest of the league cut down to the opening-night limit, the only other significant name released was that of former CFL rushing champion Joe Smith by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Grey Cup-champion Calgary Stampeders reportedly have signed quarterback Henry Burris to a new four-year deal. Burris, 34, is a two-time Western Division all-star (2005 and 2008) and threw for 39 touchdowns last season.