Jyles just wants a chance to show what he can do

MIKE GANTNER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:49 PM ET

TORONTO - Steven Jyles spent two years behind Ricky Ray in Edmonton. Then he spent two years behind Darian Durant in Saskatchewan. Last season he began the year behind Buck Pierce in Winnipeg before Pierce landed on the injured list and Jyles wound up with the starting reins.

Now he’s in Toronto hoping he’s finally found a place where he can be the No. 1 quarterback and perhaps lay down some roots.

It was almost comical listening to Ray tap dance around the premature question of finding a place to live in Toronto.

Jyles believes he is fully capable of being the Argos starting quarterback, but to declare an intention to buy a home here before he has won a spot, much less a starting spot on the roster, is not Jyles’ way.

He has too much respect for the quarterbacks who are here vying for that same job to make that decision now.

“I wouldn’t say it’s fair that I expect to be the No. 1,” Jyles said Friday as he was introduced to the local media at the Argos practice facility. “I have tremendous respect for the guys here. I’ve played with Dalton Bell before so I know what he can do. Cleo Lemon, I watched him last year and I truly respect him as a quarterback in this league.

“Talking to coach Barker, he tells me I can come in and compete,” Jyles said. “That’s all you can ask for as a quarterback, have an opportunity to compete for a starting job.”

While the real competition likely won’t begin until June when the Argos open their training camp, a mini-camp in Florida at the end of April could cut down on the competition.

Jyles, who is coming off shoulder surgery, and Lemon, who had surgery on the pinky finger on his throwing hand, are both just beginning to throw now.

Jyles threw yesterday to Andre Durie and Chad Rempel who were at the facility training and showed enough that Barker is no longer overly concerned he may have acquired damaged goods in the March 30 trade with Winnipeg which picked up a first rounder and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2012 for the quarterback.

“Actually after this morning it’s not a big concern at all,” Barker said. “He threw the ball very well. He threw on the run, he threw dropping back. Obviously he’s not 100% yet but our trainer is very excited about where his strength level is and our doctors are very excited. He’s actually a little ahead of where he should be, given the six months he’s had off. I don’t see any problem with him being 100% when we open training camp.”

Jyles said he won’t throw much, if at all, at the mini-camp, but like Barker said he sees no reason why his shoulder won’t be 100% by training camp.

That likely means the spotlight in the mini-camp will be on Bell, Danny Brannagan, and Matt Grothe, the other three quarterbacks the Argos control.

The focus for Jyles from now until then is going to be learning the Argos offence. This being his fourth CFL stop, Jyles knows how important it is to know the playbook inside and out. If he didn’t, Barker let him know yesterday.

“It’s going to be how well he grasps the playbook and an understanding of what we want from the position,” Barker said. “Then we’ll get to training camp and let the chips fall where they may.”

Barker saw enough of Jyles last year to know that he likes his presence, his accuracy and his scrambling ability. What he hopes is that he has found another late-blooming quarterback, of which there have been more than a few in the CFL.

The Argos will be the fourth team in five years for Jyles.

“I look at a lot of quarterbacks in this league and Tracy Ham is one who bounced around a little bit at first and even Anthony Calvillo bounced around a little before finding his home in Montreal,” Barker said. “We’ll see what happens with Steven.”

Lemon, who led the Argos to the playoffs in his first year, can’t match stats with Jyles whose 2010 numbers dwarf those of the former Dolphins quarterback, but Lemon did win more games than the newcomer.

“Cleo has got an advantage in that he was a starter and he took this team to the playoffs,” Barker said. “He has an advantage in that he knows these players, his receivers, so he has an advantage this way.”

But in the end it’s going to come down to which quarterback Barker believes gives him the best chance to win.

“(All the quarterbacks) know that everything we do is about winning a Grey Cup and we’re a better football team today with Steven Jyles,” Barker said. “Cleo Lemon knows that, Dalton Bell knows that and that’s the bottom line. Winning Grey Cups.”

For the newcomer, there could be no better welcome.


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