Hardship brings Argos closer
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
|Toronto Argonauts vs. the Winnipeg Blue Bombers @ Rogers Centre in Toronto on Saturday, July 24/11. Argos lead 17-6 at halftime. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)
EDMONTON - Everything that could possibly go wrong has, every possession that looked promising went for naught. The early season schedule has certainly taken its toll.
But for the Argos, there’s no point in bemoaning their lot knowing full well that excuses and sympathy are simply not options.
Instead, they prefer to cling to the hope that all this adversity will one day make them stronger, that experiencing hardship is a much-needed learning tool that will serve them well down the road.
As they readied for Friday night’s late kickoff against the host Eskimos, head coach Jim Barker hadn’t lost sight of the big picture amid the three-game losing streak.
Barker has been around the CFL long enough to understand how important it is to get on a roll when the calendar turns to the fall, when the stakes get higher and when building for the post-season is paramount.
The biggest issue with these Argos remains their offence and the person lining up under centre, areas that have seen some improvement, but nearly not enough when plays are needed.
No one can say what the Argos will look like in two months, but for now the Argos are a 1-3 team that could easily be 0-4 and just as easily be 2-2.
The margin for error has been that thin, the chance to pull out a win even thinner when the Argos are doing more to self-destruct than any opponent is producing.
“Everything is happening now,’’ Barker said of the injuries that have plagued his unit, the turnovers that have characterized the team and the penalties that have yet to be cleaned up.
“It’s a long season. People can write us off, but it doesn’t matter to us. We know what we’re about and we know what we’re doing.”
In Barker’s second go-round as Argos head coach last year, he was able to summon a lot from a group not many had projected to win nine games and come within one game of competing for the Grey Cup.
Discipline was one of the hallmarks, an area that hasn’t been strong with so many penalties being committed.
Winning the turnover battle usually translates into success, an area that has completely gone south the last three games.
And injuries were kept to a minimum last season, another area that has helped conspire against these Argos.
But when Barker is reminded of all that has gone against his team, he offers no excuses.
When two of his starting linebackers were lost in last week’s loss to Winnipeg, when two of his starting halfbacks soon followed, Barker admitted his defence got exposed.
When Dalton Bell was asked to start Friday night in place of a wonky Cleo Lemon, who didn’t take any first-team snaps during the week after he was knocked out by the Bombers because of nerve damage to a tooth, Barker viewed Bell’s opportunity as a learning experience.
Willie Pile was reminded of the three road games the Argos played to begin the season and the red-eye flight the Argos were scheduled to board following Friday night’s meeting in Edmonton as a short week awaits.
“You can’t complain at all because all this stuff we’ve experienced will draw us closer,’’ he said. “We’ll bond under these adverse conditions.
“The Grey Cup will be a road game this year and you have to take that mentality.”