Belli injury a huge blow to Argos

Without Adriano Belli, the Toronto Argonauts may have a hard time beating the Winnipeg Blue...

Without Adriano Belli, the Toronto Argonauts may have a hard time beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. (Michael Peake/SUN MEDIA)

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 PM ET

Nastiness on the part of the Argonauts could drop a few notches tomorrow afternoon.

Tackle Adriano Belli hasn’t practised this week because of a tear in the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and he doubts he will play against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the Rogers Centre.

“It could become long-term if I take a chance on it,” Belli said as he limped after practice yesterday. “It’s frustrating. And I really wanted to play if (former Argo Michael) Bishop is going to be out there. I would have liked to get my hands on him and ruin his day.”

If Belli, who was hurt near the end of the Argos’ victory in Winnipeg last week, was to miss a large amount of time, it would be a major blow.

The 31-year-old Toronto native has made headlines because he often oversteps the boundaries of emotion on the field, but in fact he is one of the Argos’ top defensive players and is tied for second in the Canadian Football League with four sacks.

Some think Corey Mace might one day replace Belli, but don’t count on it. There has not been much contact between Argos general manager Adam Rita and Paul Sheehy, Mace’s agent. Mace’s rights were acquired in the trade that sent Arland Bruce to Hamilton.

In an e-mail yesterday, Sheehy was asked by Sun Media whether he envisions Mace playing for the Argos at some point.

“As we sit here today, no, I do not see that happening,” Sheehy said.

Though Belli has missed practices in the past and played in a game later that week, the Argos are preparing to use rookie Etienne Legare, their top pick in the draft in May, in Belli’s spot.

With new receivers Chad Lucas and Cory Rodgers expected to start, the Argos’ offence will have a new look. It means that converted quarterback Reggie McNeal, who leads the Boatmen with 15 catches and 231 receiving yards, will fall to a backup role.

“I was not making enough plays,” McNeal said. “I feel so confident in myself that I tend to turn my head before (actually catching the ball), because once the ball is in my hands, I feel like I got it. I turn my head too quick. It’s about focusing and paying attention.”

The past few days have been difficult for McNeal. Bruce and McNeal were tight, and McNeal said it was “tough” to see his best pal on the team dealt. Also, McNeal’s name has surfaced in trade rumours, but he said that has not been an issue.

On the whole, Andrus wants to see a vast improvement in his offence. The Argos have one touchdown in their past two games.

“We need to score more touchdowns than we are,” Andrus said. “We have been down there (in the red zone), but we have not come away with the six points that we are all after when we get down there.”


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