TORONTO - The Argonauts could be in a heap of trouble Friday night.
Free safety and defensive captain Willie Pile suffered a knuckle injury in the season opener in Calgary, and was scheduled on Monday to visit a surgeon.
Without their defensive play-caller, the Argos had little choice but to re-sign defensive back Dwaine Carpenter, who was cut during training camp. Another player with the potential to play safety, Jeremy Unertl, suffered a hamstring injury against the Stampeders and is out.
The Argos are preparing for their date in Winnipeg this week with the Bombers as though Pile will not play. Carpenter was taking the majority of reps with the starters at practice Monday, the Argos’ first after a couple of days off.
“Sure, it’s a concern, but in Dwaine Carpenter we have the same type of guy who understands what we are doing and he is going to have to pick up the slack and step in and do it,” Argos head coach Jim Barker said. “We had Dwaine here long enough so he knows what we are doing.”
Why was Carpenter released initially?
“We had three players here (Pile, Unertl and Carpenter), and we felt more comfortable keeping the younger guy,” Barker said. “And (Carpenter) was not going to beat Willie out. He kept himself in shape. You lose two guys at one position, you don’t want to bring in a guy off the street.”
Carpenter was at home in Atlanta on Saturday morning when Barker called. Carpenter hadn’t finished unpacking after being cut by the Argos on June 17, and didn’t hesitate when Barker wondered if Carpenter could get on the next flight to Toronto.
Carpenter spent the past three seasons with the Stampeders. Barker was in the front office during that time, so the two have a history together.
“The next couple of days are going to be a cram session as far as watching film,” Carpenter said. “Getting back to game tempo is the only adjustment. I’ll be ready by Friday.”
No matter how much Carpenter learns in the next few days, replacing Pile will be difficult. The respected veteran had made a smooth transition to free safety from linebacker, and not only did he direct traffic against Stamps quarterback Henry Burris and the Calgary offence, he had two fumble recoveries.
In Barker’s perfect world, Carpenter will do what cornerback Michael Grant did in Week 1. Grant, a rookie, filled in for the injured Willie Middlebrooks. The latter was back at practice on Monday, but Grant demonstrated he could get it done.
“If a guy gets hurt, I want it to be hard for him to get his job back,” Barker said. “Willie, miraculously, is back this week. You have to have competition, guys knowing that if something happens and they get hurt, somebody else could step in and make it tough.”
That said, Pile is unlikely to lose any sleep.