Argos have no weapons like Arland Bruce

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:41 AM ET

Arland Bruce III arrived in Argoland Thursday bearing gifts, an opponent who was greeted more like a teammate.

Had Bruce and then-Argos head coach Bart Andrus not knocked heads, the CFL’s pre-eminent playmaker would still be an Argo and not a Ticat.

Hugs were exchanged, high-fives completed, memories rekindled, a scene and an atmosphere that spoke to a time and place that, in hindsight, should not have been disrupted.

“They’re like: ‘Hey, you’re supposed to be here,’ ’’ Bruce began during a brief interlude in his procession of good will.

“It’s like what if the Bulls didn’t draft Jordan. It’s the same feeling.”

Bruce has never lacked for confidence, which can at times be misinterpreted as cockiness. Bruce is good and he knows he’s good and he knows deep down that he should still be an Argo.

Unlike last season’s visit to the team’s Mississauga-based football headquarters, the Argos had just wrapped up their walkthrough preparations for Friday’s much-anticipated matchup with Hamilton when Bruce arrived on Thursday.

There were players aplenty to reconnect and reminisce with Bruce, front-office employees who were given Ticat T-shirts by Bruce, assistant equipment employees whom Bruce sought out.

This love-fest was as palpable as the chasm that existed between Bruce and Bart.

“You know why there’s so much affection?’’ Bruce asked. “I treat them like I want to be treated. I’ve done that the first day I stepped foot in Canada, every team I’ve played for, especially this organization.

“Hats off to Pinball Clemons. He’s the one who created a culture that’s family oriented, that’s all about pride. Pinball Clemons is the one who brought that fire to me. When I got here, I never disrespected anyone in this organization, from Greg Mohns (who has since left) to Adam Rita (who is expected to leave following this season).”

Bruce’s departure from the Argos has certainly left a void at receiver.

Toronto’s passing game is far from a finished product, but there’s no one on its roster who comes close to replicating Bruce’s talents.

Chad Owens can make tacklers miss in the open field and turn a short gain into a long one, but his hands aren’t as good as Bruce.

Brandon Rideau can make a tough catch in traffic over the middle, but he’s no Bruce.

Jeremaine Copeland, who will miss Friday’s game with an elbow injury and in all likelihood the return encounter in the Hammer on Labour Day, isn’t as fast as Bruce.

No Argo receiver forces defences to change their approach when Bruce is on the field because none is required. The only offensive player on Toronto’s roster who draws extra attention is running back Cory Boyd, the CFL’s leading rusher who stopped by to say hello to Bruce outside the Argos’ main trailer.

“Hey highlight reel, what’s going on big boy?’’

Bruce was very complimentary of Boyd as the two enter Friday night as the game’s two focal points.

Boyd’s emergence as a big-time player does pose the obvious question on how a Boyd-Bruce combo would have fared had last season’s rift between the Argos’ star player and the team’s rookie CFL head coach not developed.

“I believe what happens is supposed to happen,’’ Bruce added. “Maybe if I wasn’t traded, I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in.

“I’m on a team that’s turning it around and I’m leading the league. Maybe those situations wouldn’t be happening.

“I’m grateful. All good things come to an end. Look at Mookie Mitchell, who broke all those records here and he left. Look at Jordan, who went to the Wizards.”

It was pointed out to Bruce that Mitchell eventually re-surfaced as an Argo. “Hey, you just never know what the future holds,’’ Bruce added.

When he addressed the media during Hamilton’s pre-game availability, a session that featured head coach Marcel Bellefeuille, quarterback Kevin Glenn and linebacker Markeith Knowlton, Bruce was asked about the new-look Argos under Jim Barker.

“You can tell the environment has changed,’’ Bruce said. “It’s more comfortable. No one is looking over their shoulders.”

Winning has a lot to do with the change in culture, but these Argos have a cohesiveness and a chemistry that wasn’t created under Andrus.

There’s a belief that someone, someway on either side of the ball or on special teams, will make a play to win a game and every player has bought into Barker.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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