Argos bracing for Bruce

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

When Bart Andrus sent Arland Bruce on his merry little way more than a month ago, the Argonauts head coach wished him well and hoped that the receiver could learn something from the experience of being traded and the reasons that led to it.

With the Labour Day Classic looming tomorrow afternoon between the Argos and Bruce's new team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, at Ivor Wynne Stadium, Andrus isn't sure that Bruce took much out of his downfall in Toronto.

"What did he learn? I don't know," Andrus said after the Argos practised yesterday in Mississauga.

OPPORTUNITY

"I just wanted to give him the best opportunity to get a new start. If he can learn from this one, great. If he doesn't, he will be with another team shortly."

On Thursday, Bruce responded to questions about Andrus by pretending he did not know who Andrus was. This after Bruce publicly blasted Andrus prior to the trade. In that sense, it's hard to say what, if anything, Bruce gleaned from the situation.

Several potentially crucial developments with the Argos could unfold as they try to breathe life into a nearly dead season. Defensive tackle Adriano Belli should return after missing a game with a staph infection in his left shin, kicker Eddie Johnson probably will be activated after being out since Week 1 with a separated shoulder, and Dovonte Edwards figures to start at cornerback for the injured Willie Middlebrooks. But the biggest plot is that Bruce will get his first chance to drive a stake through the Boatmen.

And though Bruce has been the Ticats' leading receiver in their past three games (including two losses) and has three touchdowns, the 31-year-old claimed he remains looking for a groove.

"I think it's going to be scary because I have not mastered this playbook yet," Bruce said. "I'm still not comfortable. I'm about 88% there. It's not that I don't know what I am doing. I just want to be comfortable with what I am doing."

Of the whole Bruce saga, Andrus said it's not weighing on him. Bruce left his playbook on an airplane and missed special teams meetings, leading to a one-game suspension by Andrus and eventually was traded.

"Tired of it? That's something to me that is a non-issue right now," Andrus said. "We are happy with the receivers we have, (the Ticats) are happy with (Bruce)."

At 2-6, with the CFL's worst offence securing them to the league basement, the Argos have to win. There could be a boost in the form of Johnson, who started in the season opener but then was hurt. Andrus wants to keep kicker Justin Medlock, who is 20 of 21 in field-goal attempts, on the roster, but activate Johnson to punt. Medlock's punting average of 40.5 yards is second-lowest in the league, ahead only of Winnipeg's Mike Renaud (40 yards).

"(Johnson) is a better punter (than Medlock)," Andrus said. "The pieces will fall into place so we can (activate Johnson and keep Medlock)."

TERRY.KOSHAN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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