Will it be Bell or Lemon?

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

TORONTO - Dalton Bell will be the Argonauts’ starting quarterback Saturday against Saskatchewan.

Unless it’s Cleo Lemon.

And Cory Boyd will return to running back.

Or, maybe not.

Only head coach Jim Barker knows for sure and he’s not saying.

The cone of silence dropped over the Toronto Argonauts’ practice facility yesterday.

Barker left early without speaking to the media to attend to a family emergency.

Unspecified, of course.

It’s all part of this mystery week for the Argos — whose game plan for the Roughriders evidently includes a vow of silence.

“I’m expecting to play. They didn’t give me any actual (medical) results, but it must have been good because I’m out here practicing,” said Boyd, who returned to workouts for the first time after missing four games with a concussion.

“Everything’s been looking good, I’ve been passing my tests and have no symptoms.”

So, he’s back, right?

“He certainly would add another dimension that teams would have to consider,” is the closest assistant coach Mike O’Shea — who evidently got the short straw and, with some reluctance, stepped in to handle media queries yesterday — would come to a commitment.

When it comes to the Argonauts these days, it would be easier to get answers by going to your basement cupboard and dusting off the Ouiji board.

O’Shea was asked about the difficulties a quarterback has to overcome when he steps into a starting role after watching half a season from the sidelines.

“Is Dalton starting?” said O’Shea, deftly slipping the question like he once did offensive linemen.

If he’s not, and Cleo Lemon does show up under centre, the Argos’ medical staff might make it into the The New England Journal of Medicine for miracle concussion cures.

Lemon, was walking around in sunglasses and the only thing breaking into a sweat as he interacted with teammates on the field were his gums.

But he’s not allowed to talk to the media about his condition so it’s still anyone’s guess if he’s answering telephones that aren’t ringing.

Players can’t talk about their injuries. Team rule.

But here’s a hint.

Bell was lobbing balls at receiver Jeremaine Copeland long after the rest of the Argos had ambled off the field.

“I hope to play, everyone wants to play,” said Bell, who hasn’t started a game since he was a senior at West Texas A&M in 2006. “I’ll be ready.”

Lemon’s injury might not be an entirely bad occurrence.

While Lemon’s first season in the CFL was expected to have a learning curve, it has been a little steeper than might’ve been hoped for:

The team’s offence has scored fewer points than every team except Edmonton.

Lemon’s passing rate of 62.5% isn’t horrid, fifth in the league, but the Argos’ passing game ranks last in total yards and last in first downs.

Sometimes to move ahead, it can’t hurt to take a step back. And, it’s not as if Bell looked out of place in pre-season. There were some who believed he was equally, if not more, effective than Lemon.

Bell admits waiting for an opportunity hasn’t always been easy.

“A backup quarterback doesn’t get a lot of reps but you’re expected to be on top of everything. That’s kind of difficult but it’s part of the job and you do your best with it,” said Bell, who’s been putting in extra time all week to find timing and the idiosyncrasies of his receivers.

“That’s why I’ve been staying late with Cope and meeting with some of the other guys early; just to get the feel of how they’re going to run a route or what they might do in various situations.”

Despite never throwing a pass in Saskatchewan, or in three NFL stops including Green Bay — before signing with the Argos this year — he believes he has improved as a quarterback.

“Oh yeah. I’ve gotten maturer. I’ve learned some of the ins-and-outs of the Canadian game.”

He and Danny Brannigan (the former Queen’s star now on the Argos’ taxi squad) have become close.

“I’ve talked with him a lot and ... I’m catching on,” said Bell.

He pauses.

A grin plays mischievously at the corner of his mouth.

“Of course I’ve never really had a chance to test it.”

But, theoretically ... it’s all good.

Practically?

Chances are Saturday he’ll find out.

But shhhh!

Don’t tell anyone.

It’s a secret.

bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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