Argos must stay focused

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

Byron Parker has lined up against Arland Bruce in practice on the gridiron and exchanged jumpers in games of one on one on the hardwood.

Parker knows just how athletic and explosive Bruce can be and the threat Bruce poses each time the football gets in his hands.

As the countdown to the annual Labour Day slugfest continues, Parker knows how much of the spotlight will be on Bruce.

Parker understands the attention, but is hopeful the Argos will keep their focus.

"The media is going to run with the story of Arland facing us, but let's face it -- this is a must-win for us,'' Parker said yesterday following practice.

Parker wasn't in Argoland when Bruce and rookie CFL head coach Bart Andrus failed to find a common ground after Andrus suspended Bruce for the team's July 24 road game against Winnipeg.

When the two couldn't resolve their differences, the Argos traded Bruce to Hamilton. The Argos have yet to establish a go-to receiver in Bruce's absence.

"Right now, there is no better receiver in our league than Arland,'' said Parker, who returned to the Argos during the team's bye week after failing to catch on with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.

Bruce caught Andrus completely off guard when he went to the media to announce he wouldn't make the trip to Winnipeg.

It was the beginning of the end that really began when Bruce was flagged for objectionable conduct following a post-TD celebration in the Argos' season-opening win in Hamilton.

There's no love lost between the Argos and Ticats in good times and bad.

This year's renewal, though, has a new dimension in the form of Bruce.

At 2-6, the Argos are dead last in the CFL and could very well be dead and buried by the time their home-and-home series concludes with the Ticats.

How ironic if the person to throw dirt on the Argos' grave proves to be Bruce.

"Arland is a very talented football player, which is very positive for a team,'' Andrus about his former star slotback. "But the other things he brought we're too distracting and too much of a negative.

"He had an inability to conform to what we wanted to do and we can't have every player on their own agenda. That, and along with a couple of other things I don't ever want to discuss, is why he went."

When Parker made his return last week against Calgary, he was used primarily as a punt returner. A former CFL all-star cornerback, Parker took reps at his normal spot yesterday as incumbent Willie Middlebrooks sat out with an undisclosed ailment.

Parker would relish the challenge of shutting down Bruce, but what he wants most is a win.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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