MONCTON - Planting kisses on unsuspecting Monctonians is great and all, but Adriano Belli would rather be planting his big mitts on members of the Edmonton Eskimos.
The bruising Argonauts defensive tackle hasn’t played since July 29 thanks to a foot injury, but he is keeping his sausage-like fingers crossed that he will be in the lineup against the Edmonton Eskimos in Touchdown Atlantic on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s tough trying to stay positive,” Belli said after the Argos practised on Thursday at Rocky Stone Field. “I mean, they pay me to kill quarterbacks. They pay me to be a tough guy, and to have a foot injury drives me crazy.”
Belli should have a better idea after practice on Friday whether he can play after missing the past six games. He didn’t participate in every drill on Thursday, saying his foot was a little ginger.
“We’re going to try to go a little harder (on Friday),” Belli said. “I wish it was an elbow or something. It’s one of those injuries that either gets worse or better. It has been frustrating.”
And recovery will take some more time when you weigh approximately 295 pounds, as Belli correctly noted when he said he’s “not the lightest guy on my feet.”
The Argos defensive line hasn’t broken down without Belli. Ronald Flemons has been excellent on one end, and Kevin Huntley’s play at the other tackle position has been a strength. Eric Taylor has been admirable in Belli’s spot, and the line will only get better as Ricky Foley is worked in more. Rookie Alex Buzbee has held up his end.
Still, a healthy Belli would be a solid shot in the arm to the group.
Despite the injury, Belli, who has few peers when it comes to his outgoing nature, has been enjoying himself here. The Kissing Bandit has been pecking people at every stop, and has chatted up several of the local high school players who have been assisting at practice.
Not surprisingly, Belli, along with Eskimos offensive guard Patrick Kabongo, was among the first players sent to the Maritimes to drum up support not long after the game was announced months ago.
“I relish in this,” Belli said. “I was thinking about it on the bus coming to practice, about how lucky I have been to play in every city in Canada. We did a week in Red Deer when I was younger (with the Montreal Alouettes). The Grey Cup weeks that I have been a part of. This is what the CFL is all about.”
Watching Belli lumber around after practice and doling out kisses is hard to miss.
“There was some guy, probably about 80 years old, and all he cared about was meeting the Kissing Bandit,” Argos head coach Jim Barker said. “Belli has created himself and he is a special guy. He takes time with people, really does care, and is fun to watch.”