Argos' Foley not a fan of platooning

BILL LANKHOF, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:33 PM ET

TORONTO - In so many ways this has been Ricky Foley’s season of discontent.

What should’ve been his greatest triumph has turned into his most maddening professional disappointment.

The Canadian Football League free agent has been cut twice by NFL teams this autumn.

He was a star sought by many just weeks ago. Today he is a part-timer and he doesn’t quite understand how this happened, or why he’s not playing every down as a Toronto Argonaut. “I’m just not myself. You try as hard as you can but it’s just not what I’m used to,” said Foley, who hasn’t been the dominating force on the defensive line everyone — including Foley himself — expected.

The CFL sack leader a year ago, he’s unhappy, disillusioned and not quite sure how he fits in.

“I play the best when I play every down like I did in B.C,” said Foley, who has been rotating in and out of Toronto’s defensive line since walking away from an offer to return to the Lions. “I don’t know what this does. They signed me because of what I did in B.C. So, I want to do what I did in B.C.”

Foley had 51 tackles last season, earning Most Outstanding Canadian honors. B.C. wanted him back, desperately. He had every intention of going back after failing to make rosters in Seattle and with Rex Ryan’s family circus in New York.

Instead, thoughts of playing with his hometown Argos in front of family and friends intervened. He had reservations then. He has even more now. “It’s got nothing to do with any of the other players who are here; it’s got nothing to do with any of the coaches. I just didn’t expect to take a step backwards when I came here. I expected to take further steps in my career from where I was in B.C. So, it’s frustrating,” said Foley, who has six tackles in three games with Toronto, but just one sack.

Instead of handing Foley a starting job at defensive end, head coach Jim Barker has been rotating him on a line that also has included Alex Buzbee, Eric Taylor, Adriano Belli, Ron Flemons and Kevin Huntley, among others.

The theory is that it gives the team flexibility and it keeps players fresh. Reality is it also drives Foley to distraction. “You just get a better feel for the game (playing every down). Pass rushing is kind of an art. You have to set the guy up. It’s like a pitcher setting up the batter — curveball, fastball — he doesn’t know what to expect. When you come in for just one or two (plays) it’s harder to set guys up. But it is what it is.”

Barker said Foley — a shot-put record holder at York University who once considered a career in track and field — is young, extremely talented, yet impatient. “He’s a decathlon guy, he grew up in a sport where it’s all about me. He doesn’t understand how important it is for the guys he’s playing beside to know he earned the job.”

Someday, said Barker, he will understand. And, he will have the job.

“He won’t be rotating for long but I was honest with him when he signed. I told him he’d have to earn his way into being a starter like everyone else here. I understand where he’s coming from ... that he was the outstanding Canadian and played every down last year. But it was also just one year; the year before he was playing behind Cameron Wake.”

Foley thought that one year was enough to prove himself; prove he was worthy of starting. He said he understands about team chemistry, that this weekend’s game against Saskatchewan puts his own issues “on the back burner” but he also can’t help but be honest ­— and he is not a fan of Barker’s rotation system.

“Obviously not,” he said yesterday. Playing with his home team sounded like the perfect scenario. He’s beginning to wonder if it wasn’t all a big mistake. “I mentioned at the time that I was worried about coming to the unknown. B.C. was best for my career because I could just pick up where I left off there. I didn’t want to come here and take a step backwards. I know it takes time. But it’s pro football. Two weeks can be like two years. It’s frustrating when you think you’re taking a step backward.”

Barker said he’d be more concerned if Foley, or any player, wasn’t unhappy about not playing. “I know he believes that he’s the best player out there and he needs to believe that. But,” said Barker, “it’s even more important for the guys around him to believe he’s the best.”


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