Argo axe falls on veterans

Defensive tackle Claude Wroten has made a huge impression in the few days he's been at the Argos...

Defensive tackle Claude Wroten has made a huge impression in the few days he's been at the Argos camp and has already won a starting spot on the line. (MARK O'NEILL/QMI Agency)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:15 PM ET

TORONTO - Jim Barker was not his jovial self Wednesday morning as his team wrapped up its final walk-through for Thursday’s final pre-season tune-up in Winnipeg.

The Argos head coach and GM spent the early morning engaged in the worst part of his job, informing players they were no longer in the team’s plans.

Worse, both cuts were veterans.

“We have a lot of tough decisions,” Barker said. “There’s not a lot of guys injured so that makes the decisions even tougher. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are the worst days you have as a coach and as a GM because you have to say goodbye to guys who you like a lot and you hate to take their livelihood away from them.”

Import defensive back Michael Grant and non-import defensive tackle Miguel Robede were the first of what will be at least another 15 players Barker will have to let go by Friday.

Barker, as he did with P.K. Sam earlier this week, was actually doing his vets a favour by giving them the news a little early. It allows them the opportunity to catch on with another team in advance of the market being flooded with cuts later in the week.

Robede was particularly tough on Barker, who was part of the Stampeders front office in 2005 when the Stamps made the Laval lineman the first overall pick in the CFL draft.

“Miguel came in and did everything. I mean he works hard and it was a hard one for me because he and I are very close. We just made a conscious decision that we weren’t going to have a Canadian nose guard on our active roster. I just didn’t feel like even asking him (about a place on the practice roster) was even fair. Alex Buzbee and Ronald Flemons can both play inside.”

As for Grant, he was beaten out for the cornerback position vacated by Willie Middlebrooks who retired after a neck injury.

“He’ll find a job in this league,” Barker said of Grant. “There is no doubt in my mind, but when you have the depth we have in the secondary we just felt it was the move to make.”

Barker must be down to 46 players as of Friday. The roster was at 70 on Wednesday. Seven cuts, assuming they clear waivers, can be brought back as practice-roster players in addition to however many injured the team is carrying.

Wroten worth watching

Claude Wroten has been in Toronto four days, completed two practices and a walk-through and he’s been good enough that the coaching staff has already decided to start him at one of the two defensive tackle positions and release a Canadian with five years of CFL experience under his belt.

Wroten, who also made a huge impression at the Argos free-agent camp in Florida this spring, says the only thing that is keeping him from being completely at ease in his new surroundings is the terminology the Argos defensive line uses in its play calls. Other than that and meshing with his new teammates, Wroten couldn’t feel any more secure than he does right now.

“I feel I can fit into any locker room,” Wroten said. “I have a bubbly personality and people love me.”

Wroten roomed with Ejiro Kuale at LSU so he already had one confidante when he arrived in camp. Tuesday morning he was having breakfast and talking with Robede before the former Laval product was released.

“It’s real easy to fit in here,” Wroten said. “They’re all good guys.”

Pressure's on

Barker says he’ll have his eyes on all kinds of battles for roster positions Thursday in Winnipeg but it’s hard to believe any will be as closely watched as the competition at receiver.

“We need receivers to make catches,” Barker said. “We dropped too many balls the other day and you can’t do that in this league. You drop a ball and you’re punting.

“We are going to look very closely at that. Brandon Rideau, James Robinson, D.J. Boldin is a great battle. We can probably only keep one of them on the roster. Someone is going to have to step up and make some plays and when you get the opportunity you better make them.”

Barker then dropped the cautionary tale of P.K. Sam, who was responsible for the bulk of those drops this past Saturday and despite having perhaps the best hands in camp, was released.

Here and there

With Dalton Bell not travelling with the team due to injury, Baker said Cleo Lemon will play into the third quarter and rookie B.J. Hall will likely finish up at quarterback ... Kuale will not make the trip to Winnipeg. The linebacker/special teams demon suffered the first stinger of his career last Saturday and according to Barker is still concerned about it. “He got a stinger in the game (Saturday) and when you’ve never had one ... I mean Andre Durie had one here in camp and he was in the fetal position for about 15 minutes. It’s scary. Your body goes numb and that’s what happened to E.J. It scared him when he couldn’t feel his limbs and there’s tingling. He’s coming along fine, but we just felt it was better to give him a week to recover.” ... Veteran receivers Jeremaine Copeland and Chad Owens will also remain in Toronto. Both are nursing minor ailments and Barker saw no point in risking their health in this game ... The offensive line will be down a few veterans as Rob Murphy and Chris Van Zeyl will skip the game to heal up some nagging injuries.


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