A running problem for Argos

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:13 AM ET

Grey skies and a steady rain greeted the Argonauts for their morning workout on Wednesday, but the real ominous sign came in the shortage of running backs.

Some time between Tuesday’s workouts and Wednesday morning, import running back DeCori Birmingham made the decision to retire leaving coach Jim Barker and the Argos somewhat shy in the backfield.

The unexpected news comes just five days after import quarterback Gibran Hamdan opted to head home rather than continue in his bid to earn a roster spot.

According to Barker, Birmingham’s decision was based on a serious personal issue back home that the Atlanta, Texas running back felt he had to address. Barker said the nature of the issue was such that the head coach even encouraged him to go home.

“He had a pretty serious personal situation that he is going home and deal with because that’s what a man does,” Barker said. “He will go take care of that. He just felt at this point he needed to do it, so I encouraged him to do it and we’ll bring another guy in.”

General manager Adam Rita was already looking for another running back to bring in for Birmingham early Wednesday.

Former Saskatchewan standout Kenton Keith, recently released by Hamilton who had stints in the NFL with Indianapolis and the New York Jets, is not in the picture according to Rita because he’s coming off a real bad knee injury while former Tabbie Jesse Lumsden, who was released by Edmonton this winter when he couldn’t pass his physical, is not ready to play either.

Birmingham, who Barker earlier in camp described as a “tough inside runner who blocks well” before calling him a “huge bright spot”, was the lone healthy remaining import back.

Cory Boyd, who suffered a concussion earlier in camp and has since been released is still in the area and could be resigned once he’s healthy again. Ryan Christian is still on the roster but has been dealing with some turf toe and has missed the past two days of workouts.

Barker downplayed the loss preferring to focus on how strong both Jeff Johnson and Bryan Crawford have looked in camp. Andre Durie, who sat out both of Tuesday’s workouts and the one Wednesday morning as he overcame a stomach problem was expected back on the field for yesterday’s late workout.

The former York University standout is another possibility to move back to running back but Barker isn’t committing to that just yet.

Initially Barker had hoped to employ Durie in a bit of a running back/receiver hybrid much the way he used Mike (Pinball) Clemons in a previous Argo life.

“We still have Durie that we could put back there,” Barker said. “We’re trying to allow him to learn a new position but we could have him go back there ... It’s not like we’re panicked about that situation at all.”

Maybe not panicked but one would have to be at least mildly concerned.

Barker though refuses to let anything, even these unforeseen setbacks, dampen his enthusiasm for what he’s seeing in training camp.

“I’m thankful that we have Bryan Crawford and Jeff Johnston, two non-import running backs and they have been just spectacular in practice,” Barker said putting his patented positive spin on things.

“I can’t say enough about those guys. I focus on the guys we have here. Every year it seems you have one position that you get hit at and that happens to be running back this year.”

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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