The tooth of the matter for Argos

Argonauts quarterback Cleo Lemon throws during practice on Monday. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

Argonauts quarterback Cleo Lemon throws during practice on Monday. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:51 PM ET

TORONTO - When he was a kid, Cleo Lemon hated going to the dentist.

As the Argonauts’ quarterback, a marathon session in the chair was not where he wanted to be when his team needed him on the field.

But with his grillwork now straightened, Lemon was back at the controls for Monday’s practice, hoping to get past his pain and that of the club’s numbing four-game losing streak. Coach Jim Barker said Lemon was the likely starter here Thursday against the Montreal Alouettes, determined to resume the near-perfect first quarter he had engineered before Winnipeg’s Joe Lobendahn popped him with a helmet-to-helmet hit on July 23.

“Once he made contact, I just felt the tooth just kind of split,” Lemon said. “You were hoping it wasn’t much at all, but once I got to the sideline, they did what they had to do to take care of it. There was a lot of pain. The nerve was exposed and once you’re dealing with that you want to get it taken care of as soon as possible.”

Lemon, who was 5-for-5 before the injury, was replaced by Dalton Bell for the rest of the game, which turned into a 33-24 home-opening loss. Bell was hot and cold in Friday night’s 26-25 Twilight Zone defeat in Edmonton. In the meantime, Lemon had been in team dentist Paul Eisner’s office.

“Three days, three different procedures and three hours at a time,” Lemon said. “It was two weeks worth of work in three days. You just go on and hope you get your feeling back. When it’s on an emergency level, it’s a problem you don’t want to deal with. Dr. Eisner did a great job of patching me up.”

Lemon will be thinking a lot more about personal safety when he returns. He has never worn a mouthguard and admits his decision not to slide or follow the block on the hit in question came back to haunt him.

“It was a football hit,” Lemon said, first addressing any nefarious intent on Lobendahn’s part. “It happened and I’m past it.

“I’ve never worn a mouthpiece. I’d always been able to communicate (better) without it. Now it’s come down to where I have to wear one. I have to be more aware and take that precaution. I’ll just have to make the adjustments.”

Both Lemon and Barker agreed that it’s easy to say a quarterback should protect his body on the run, but adrenaline and field position can mean caution gets thrown to the wind very quickly.

“I’ve never thought about (sliding) before, but with things going on, I have to be better prepared,” Lemon said. “It’s OK to slide. From here on out, get the yards and move on to the next play. But if it’s third down and you need a yard, you’re not going to slide. You’ll do everything you can to get the first down.”

Lemon’s eyes lit up when he recalled how magically the game plan unfolded early in the Winnipeg match, going on his second year as a CFL starter with so many question marks about his ability as a No. 1.

“We were really into a rhythm and that’s what we had been striving to do,” Lemon said.

“I just felt that communication-wise, everyone was on the same page, the ball was coming out quick and the offensive line was doing a great job of giving me time. When that happens, you get opportunities down the field and you have to take advantage of those.”

Barker is counting on Lemon getting back in the groove, too, though a short week of practice doesn’t help.

“He’d played the best quarter of football he’s had since he got here, so why wouldn’t he start?,” Barker said. “When your tooth splits, there are head problems and through (last week) we weren’t going to take any chances. He was fuzzy during the week.”

In the team’s first practice since returning from Edmonton, kicker Noel Prefontaine was not present, but Barker would not rule him out this week. A pre-game injury saw Grant Shaw fill in, but shank a couple of key punts.

“He’s a young kid, he’s got to be better and grow into this,” Barker said. “When you’re asked to do all three (kicking jobs) at the last minute, it’s a tough call.

But we don’t pay him to go out there and shank balls. We pay him to go out there and perform when he’s asked.”

Cory Boyd also tested a strained right MCL on Monday, dividing time with replacement Chad Kackert. Hurt after a season-opening win, Boyd has watched the team lose four since. Barker sounded doubtful about using Boyd as soon as this Thursday, but seemed equally frustrated that Kackert’s five touchdowns have been marred by five fumbles.

“Any time you are on the the sideline and watching your team perform and watching others at your position, it’s frustrating,” Boyd said. “I believe we are getting it together. We just have to get our swagger right. A lot of people have to understand their roles and their value to the team.

“They (Alouettes) are on a two-game losing streak, we’re on a four-game streak. No one expects us to go out and do anything. i think we can catch them at their most vulnerable moment. Let the chips fall.”


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