McNeal is Argos' forgotten man

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:45 PM ET

TORONTO - Cleo Lemon meet Reggie McNeal.

Reggie McNeal meet Cleo Lemon.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, maybe they’ll recognize each other Friday when the Argonauts meet the Hamilton Ticats.

McNeal has become the invisible man in Toronto’s offence since returning from a serious hip injury three games ago.

“My first game back I was the leading receiver then the next two ...,” McNeal shrugs and decides not to finish the thought, noting, “it’s hard to say. As a receiver you always want the ball and you always think that you’re open.”

If he has been open, Lemon hasn’t been able to find him from the quarterback position.

In last week’s 24-19 win over Saskatchewan, Lemon spotted seven different receivers for completions. McNeal, who had more than 600 yards receiving in 2008, wasn’t one of them. “After I got injured I didn’t know if that would be my last snap or if I’d be able to come back this year. Now that I’m back I feel blessed,” but, admitted McNeal, “it’s not the season I’ve been wanting.”

A slot receiver tends to be a ball magnet in the CFL but he has now gone consecutive games in which he hasn’t caught a pass. This, after collecting 74 yards on six receptions in a 24-6 loss in Moncton when he returned Sept. 26 after missing nine games.

During training camp, McNeal suffered an injury to his psoas muscle, which contributes to flexion and external rotation in the hip joint. When he returned head coach Jim Barker envisioned him as the final piece to a puzzle that already included Jeremaine Copeland, Andre Durie and James Robinson.

Copeland caught five passes in last weekend’s win over Saskatchewan, Robinson and Durie are beginning to settle in but McNeal and Lemon haven’t been able to find a rhythmn.

“Some days I’m still sore. We don’t have the chemistry down pat yet. This is my fourth week back and even today it felt better,” he said of finding a common touch with his quarterback. “But there are some practice days I just can’t go full speed like I do in the games. Maybe that has something to do with it.”

McNeal averaged more than 10 yards per catch last year. But there’s nowhere to run if he can’t get the ball first. “From that aspect it’s frustrating because I know once I get the ball I can make plays ... I can help the team.”

Barker’s willing to wait. For now. Not forever. “It’s mostly a matter of developing a trust with the quarterback and that hasn’t happened yet. It takes time but eventually he’s going to have to make some plays,” Barker said.

Quick Hits

Punter Jamie Boreham will undergo an MRI today to discover the extent of what is believed to be a serious hamstring injury. He watched practice from a cart yesterday. He injured the leg driving a punt through the end zone in last weekend’s win over Saskatchewan. Said Barker: “It was a key play for us and he put everything he had into that (kick). It’s sad because it’ll end his season but it’s also the kind of play you like to see in that he left it all on the field.” ... Team sack leader Kevin Huntley (shoulder) participated in full workouts and is expected to return against Hamilton ... Receiver Andre Durie needs your vote. He can win $50,000 for Mississauga Community Living which helps mentally-challenged individuals live independently in the community. One player from every team in the league submitted an idea to The PepsiRefresh CFL challenge and fans vote on the one they like best. The player who’s idea gets the most votes (and Durie is hoping that might be his) wins the $50,000. Vote by going to www.cfl.ca/PepsiRefresh.


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