Argos in bizarro world

Argonauts quarterback Steven Jyles runs for a touchdown against the Blue Bombers. (MIKE...

Argonauts quarterback Steven Jyles runs for a touchdown against the Blue Bombers. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:10 PM ET

TORONTO - The Toronto Argonauts are living in a world of the bizarre.

On the weekend they won a game even after Noel Prefontaine bounced a last-second field goal off the goal post.

Tuesday, as the club prepared for a must-win game against Hamilton, backup Dalton Bell was taking all the first-team reps — or, at least the ones that involved passing the ball.

But starter Steven Jyles is fine.

Honest.

But, perhaps, only if you believe what you hear and not what you see. Unless things change later in the week, all indications are that the club is preparing to have Bell at quarterback.

Meantime, the players were giddier than Scrooge after getting ghost-tackled.

With the real enemy still days away, they took to practicing getting a hate on with each other. There was a shoving match.

“It was a spirited practice,” observed head coach Jim Barker, after a helmet came flying out of the trenches and Taylor Scott and Chris Van Zeyl had to be separated.

“It should be spirited coming off a big win ... with Hamilton coming in.”

Oh, and then there was the club’s most versatile receiver, Andre Durie. He’s hurt. So is left guard Cedric Gagne-Marcoux, leaving this offensive line with more patches than a zebra’s hind end.

As if that weren’t enough balls for Barker to juggle, there is linebacker Ejiro Kuale who — when he guaranteed Toronto would beat Hamilton — left Barker trying to stamp out a verbal conflagration.

The last thing the Argonauts need is another quarterback conundrum. But Jyles left Saturday’s win, he missed the first nine games with a shoulder injury and now five days before the Argos’ biggest game of the year, he’s taking the day off just so his backup can get, as Barker described it, “his confidence back”.

It would seem that, considering Jyles was able to pass for only 88 yards against the Bombers, that he could use all the practice with the offence that he could get.

If he was healthy.

“He’s going to play this week,” insisted Barker. “I took him out of the game but it was a nerve issue in his shoulder. I wanted to give Dalton some reps today. He’s going to be fine.”

Jyles did hand off the ball a few times but spent most of the two-hour workout watching Bell. “I just know they wanted Dalton to get some reps and for me to take it easy,” said Jyles, about a potential quarterback change. Asked point blank, he grinned:

Can you play?

“Oh, yes I can play. I can play.”

Will you play?

“Yes, I will play.”

Will you start?

“Yes, I will start?”

Still, the circumstances are enough to make an onlooker ponder.

Speaking of sober second thought, Kuale didn’t. Have any, that is, when he told a reporter, “They’re (the Ticats) going to lose next week. Period. Point blank. I’m guaranteeing it.”

The Argos’ sometimes-maligned defence forced four turnovers and recorded four sacks to come alive for the first time this season against Winnipeg.

Kuale deserves a huge slice of credit for that turnabout. Said Barker: “He’s such an emotional leader for our team. He plays with passion. He’s what you want in a linebacker.”

But, maybe not what you’d want as a public-relations director.

Asked if he’d heard about his linebacker’s predictions, Barker smiled and shook his head. “I don’t even want to. I’ve heard rumours of it. Players are players. He just told you this time. He predicts a win just about every week. I told him it’s better to keep that to ourselves but now it’s going to be all over the world.”

Well, at least all over Hamilton.

Even if Jyles shows up behind centre against the Ticats, one of his biggest challenges could be surviving behind an offensive line that should come with an “Under Construction” sign. Marcoux has concussion symptoms, leaving only Van Zeyl and centre Dominic Picard from Barker’s original starting offensive line.

“There’s a chance (Marcoux) won’t go,” said Barker, who could have Edon Coughman, Joe Eppelle and now Jeff Keeping or Jonathan St. Pierre, in front of fellow newbies Jyles or Bell. “(It) means three new guys which is difficult for a new quarterback, too, because he’s got three guys in front of him learning their way.”

All of which should leave Stevie Baggs & Co. looking good. All of which points to a walkover for the Ticats. All of which the Winnipeg Blue Bombers thought, too.

And, everyone knows how well that worked out.

AWARD FOR FOLEY

Ricky Foley won CFL Canadian Player of the Week honours with his six tackles and two sacks against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“I had a breakout week,” said Foley, who is first among defensive lineman in the CFL with 54 tackles, and ninth overall in the league.

The Argos will have to duplicate their dominating performance on defence this weekend against Hamilton to keep their playoff hopes alive.

“Even if it wasn’t a playoff race it would be a big game. We have two games left with them and we need to win both.”

Foley is the first Argonaut to win the award this season.


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