New era starts for Argos

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:41 AM ET

CALGARY - New owner, new head coach, new quarterback.

But as for new results — well, the Argonauts will begin to find out at McMahon Stadium on Thursday night against the Calgary Stampeders.

“The first real test, right?” Argos special teams captain Bryan Crawford said. “There’s no question the off-season was a transitional time for us.

“It’s the beauty of a new season. Regardless of what anyone says, we’re really the only ones who get to decide what we are going to be.”

David Braley, who took over ownership from David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski during the winter, is not expected to be in attendance for the season opener.

But Jim Barker, coaching for the first time since 2003, and quarterback Cleo Lemon, who hopes a brief National Football League career was enough of a training ground for his CFL venture, will be front and centre.

Because the Argos won just seven games in the past two years, and because the club now largely is young and unproven, few think that the Argos will make a big impact on the East Division standings. And for the Argos, that outside line of thinking is fine.

“I know nobody is expecting anything big, but we know we have the talent to turn some heads,” said receiver Jeremaine Copeland, who will have to be spot on for the Argos to have success.

“I love being the underdog. Hopefully by the end of the fourth quarter (on Thursday night), you will have a different thought process about the Argos.”

Even Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris recognized how important a win would be for the Argos on Canada Day. Not that Burris won’t do everything in his power to stop it from happening.

“It’s the start of a new generation, a new era (for Toronto),” Burris said. “I know coach Barker wants to come win this game, but more to change the face of the Argos organization. A big win would help open some eyes for that team and really get them going.”

What’s true is the belief in the Argos locker room that a corner already has been turned from a devastating 2009 season under Bart Andrus. The rejuvenated attitude is the work of Barker. That he was serious about attempting to change the focus of the team made reporting for work fun again for the players.

“It was a long training camp, but a necessary training camp,” offensive lineman Rob Murphy said. “You can sense the excitement. We’re ready to play four quarters with our starters and see what happens.

“For me, personally, I think about all the time in the off-season you put in the grunt work. I am emotional mess before the game. It just bottles up inside me. This is my 13th year of pro football, and I’m lucky.”

Barker has a firm grasp of what he wants from his players.

“I want our team to not lead the league in penalties, penalty yardage, turnovers, which they have led for two years by a big margin,” Barker said.

“When I watched film (from last season), I saw guys jogging routes, I didn’t see receivers blocking, didn’t see guys on defence flying to the ball.

“We needed to change that part of the culture. We take every snap and try to get guys to focus on that snap on that play in that moment. If players can learn to visualize that, we have a chance to be a good football team.”


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