Argos comedy club

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Did you hear the one about the Argonauts quarterback who walked into a comedy club?

Argos season-ticket holders who gathered at the Second City on Mercer St. -- and with all that went wrong with the Argos in the past two seasons, holding a fan forum at a place where jokes are told seemed appropriate -- at the invite of the football team on Tuesday night, would have been happy if a quarterback, any quarterback, had joined them.

But it didn't happen, and don't expect the Argos to announce the signing of a quarterback on Wednesday or Thursday or the day after that. Why? The Argos want to work out a few players they have in mind, but once they sign them, they can't see them in uniform until camp starts on June 6.

The issue of who will throw the ball was on the mind of several fans who stepped up to the microphone. Made sense, as the Argos have no one of that description today.

"Where are we going?" head coach Jim Barker said to a couple of hundred Double Blue supporters. "There is no backdoor dealing with B.C. (the Lions have a glut of quarterbacks). There's absolutely none of that.

"(Possible trading partners) could jack the price up and want us to give up draft picks, which we don't want to do. And we're not going to take a guy just because he has CFL experience. This is all about trusting a guy to give us the best opportunity to win on July 1."

Barker stressed that their next quarterback will have undergone strenuous physical and mental testing before he is signed. That brought a response from defensive tackle Adriano Belli, who probably could have a future in comedy, or at least in front of a television camera, when his CFL career comes to an end. Belli, who played for the Montreal Alouettes when Barker was on its coaching staff nearly 10 years ago, wondered aloud if the coach would put the rest of the players through such testing.

"Just be happy you're still here, man," Barker said, bringing instant laughter. "Adriano used to cook Italian meals for me in Montreal. That will get him to at least training camp."

Barker revealed that Canadian-born quarterbacks won't count as roster spots when camps open across the league, but whether that leads to a local flavour in Argoland probably is asking for too much.

Barker and Belli were joined in a question-and-answer session by Argos president Bob Nicholson, general manager Adam Rita, special teams co-ordinator Mike O'Shea and the club's new prized player, receiver Jeremaine Copeland.

Nicholson reiterated that the Argos are at the Rogers Centre to stay, and that new owner David Braley has no interest in finding another stadium, a notion that consumed former owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski.

One fan was concerned about the offence under Bart Andrus, which featured little imagination and about as many 25-yard completions as the Argos had victories in 2009.

"There's going to be some down-field balls this year," Copeland, who also has played for Barker, said before anyone else could answer. I guarantee there is going to be a little bit of everything (with Barker as head coach)."

With just over three months before getting down to brass tacks but with no quarterback in sight, few clubs could give fans much hope.

But as they went into the snowy night, some had the feeling that somehow, things are beginning to turn in Argoland.

There's no denying the Argos are in a better place than they were just 15 days ago, when there was no coach, no coaching staff, and still no official takeover by Braley.

Though the jokes were flying, it's clear there is direction -- a fresh outlook for the fans who ate chicken wings and had a few beers on the Argos' tab on Tuesday night.


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