Lemon played with torn ligaments in throwing hand

Argonauts quarterback Cleo Lemon scrambles against the Alouettes in Toronto on August 14, 2010....

Argonauts quarterback Cleo Lemon scrambles against the Alouettes in Toronto on August 14, 2010. (MARK BLINCH/Reuters)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:57 PM ET

TORONTO - No wonder Cleo Lemon had trouble completing passes at times during his first season in the Canadian Football League.

The Argonauts learned on Tuesday that Lemon, who started all but one game at quarterback in 2010, played for at least the final two months with torn ligaments in his throwing hand.

“He’s a gutsy kid,” Argos head coach Jim Barker said on Wednesday from Phoenix, where he is enjoying some down time.

“His hand hurt bad when he was holding the ball.”

Lemon will have surgery but Barker said it’s too early to tell when the 31-year-old will be healthy.

Lemon wore a glove on his right hand and there were indications as early as September that he was trouble holding on to and throwing the football.

The Argos finished 9-9 and won the East semi-final against Hamilton before they were thumped in the East final by Montreal, but Lemon won’t have many great memories of his initial professional year north of the Canada-U.S. border.

Lemon had just 15 touchdown passes with 19 interceptions while throwing for 3,433 yards.

As for the quarterback picture as a whole, some changes will have happened by the time camp opens next June.

Lemon will be back, as will his backup, Dalton Bell, whom Barker thinks will challenge for the No. 1 job.

Matt Grothe, who had been on the practice roster, is in the mix as he was one of five players added to the active roster on Tuesday.

But Ken Dorsey will not return. The third-stringer for most of this past regular season, Dorsey will retire and try to embark on a coaching career.

Canadian Danny Brannagan will be back, Barker said.

The plan is to add at least one more quarterback during the winter so there’s a healthy competition in camp.

“I’m expecting to have four (not including Brannagan),” Barker said.

“That’s a good number for us. Grothe has a lot of good qualities, and he has to get in a game and play. We have three or four other guys on our radar, but you don’t want to sign them too early.”

And if Argos fans are hoping that some improvements come via free agency when the doors swing open in mid-February, they don’t have to hold their breath.

Barker is not planning to be overly busy at any position when the CFL’s free agency period starts in mid-February.

“I don’t really expect to be active,” Barker said.

“I don’t believe you build through free agency. You have to build with good drafting and a good scouting system, and the occasional trade.

Dual roles?

“With free agents, you usually end up over-paying. There just aren’t a lot of players that you would go out and over-pay for.”

The Argos aren’t sure who will be the general manager once Adam Rita’s contract expires at the end of the calendar year, but Barker appears destined for dual roles.

As it is, Barker and the front office staff are working on re-signing a number of Argos who have the potential to go free in February, including three starters on the defensive line — Kevin Huntley, Ronald Flemons and Eric Taylor — as well as slotback Jeremaine Copeland and special teams captain Bryan Crawford.

Improving the Canadian content continues to be one of Barker’s big mandates.

It will happen naturally in some cases as receiver Spencer Watt will challenge for a starting job, as could Steven Turner, who is recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, an injury that occurred in training camp.

“There are always major additions and deletions, but I expect to have the same core of guys next year,” Barker said of his roster.

“The players now know what needs to be done, and they know the recipe for winning is there.”


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