Will it be Bell or Lemon?

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

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

Unless itís Cleo Lemon.

And Cory Boyd will return to running back.

Or, maybe not.

Only head coach Jim Barker knows for sure and heís not saying.

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

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

Unspecified, of course.

Itís all part of this mystery week for the Argos ó whose game plan for the Roughriders evidently includes a vow of silence.

ďIím expecting to play. They didnít give me any actual (medical) results, but it must have been good because Iím out here practicing,Ē said Boyd, who returned to workouts for the first time after missing four games with a concussion.

ďEverythingís been looking good, Iíve been passing my tests and have no symptoms.Ē

So, heís back, right?

ďHe certainly would add another dimension that teams would have to consider,Ē is the closest assistant coach Mike OíShea ó who evidently got the short straw and, with some reluctance, stepped in to handle media queries yesterday ó 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.

OíShea 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.

ďIs Dalton starting?Ē said OíShea, deftly slipping the question like he once did offensive linemen.

If heís not, and Cleo Lemon does show up under centre, the Argosí 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 heís not allowed to talk to the media about his condition so itís still anyoneís guess if heís answering telephones that arenít ringing.

Players canít talk about their injuries. Team rule.

But hereís a hint.

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

ďI hope to play, everyone wants to play,Ē said Bell, who hasnít started a game since he was a senior at West Texas A&M in 2006. ďIíll be ready.Ē

Lemonís injury might not be an entirely bad occurrence.

While Lemonís first season in the CFL was expected to have a learning curve, it has been a little steeper than mightíve been hoped for:

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

Lemonís passing rate of 62.5% isnít horrid, fifth in the league, but the Argosí passing game ranks last in total yards and last in first downs.

Sometimes to move ahead, it canít hurt to take a step back. And, itís 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 hasnít always been easy.

ďA backup quarterback doesnít get a lot of reps but youíre expected to be on top of everything. Thatís kind of difficult but itís part of the job and you do your best with it,Ē said Bell, whoís been putting in extra time all week to find timing and the idiosyncrasies of his receivers.

ďThatís why Iíve been staying late with Cope and meeting with some of the other guys early; just to get the feel of how theyíre going to run a route or what they might do in various situations.Ē

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

ďOh yeah. Iíve gotten maturer. Iíve learned some of the ins-and-outs of the Canadian game.Ē

He and Danny Brannigan (the former Queenís star now on the Argosí taxi squad) have become close.

ďIíve talked with him a lot and ... Iím catching on,Ē said Bell.

He pauses.

A grin plays mischievously at the corner of his mouth.

ďOf course Iíve never really had a chance to test it.Ē

But, theoretically ... itís all good.

Practically?

Chances are Saturday heíll find out.

But shhhh!

Donít tell anyone.

Itís a secret.

bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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