CFL a young man's league

Former Montreal Alouettes -- and future hall of famer -- Anwar Stewart still hasn't signed on with...

Former Montreal Alouettes -- and future hall of famer -- Anwar Stewart still hasn't signed on with a team this off-season. (REUTERS)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

Of all the veterans who have been cast adrift by CFL teams, of all the names who may one day resurface, the most intriguing remains Anwar Stewart.

There haven’t been many players in three-down football who have been asked to change roles in mid-stream, bulk up when it was necessary to provide an interior presence, or develop a quicker motor when asked to line up on the edge and wreak havoc in the backfield.

No player has survived so much and there’s no better ambassador for the CFL than Stewart, whom the Montreal Alouettes released this off-season.

As training camps beckon and as teams continue to add young, unproven talent from both sides of the border, Stewart’s name is worth following.

It’s no secret Stewart would like to play in Toronto, where the connection to Montreal is very much pronounced, beginning with the Argos’ top football man, GM Jim Barker.

Barker has gone on record as saying he wants the group he has assembled to showcase their skills before turning to a proven veteran such as Stewart.

“We know him well,’’ Barker said of Stewart, a Kentucky product who will one day be enshrined in the CFL’s hall of fame. “Anwar’s never been in bad shape and he knows the league.”

If there’s a fit in Toronto, it won’t be known until after training camp.

For now, Barker is prepared to wait and see how the many news faces he and defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones have signed before a veteran such as Stewart becomes an option.

“We’ll be seeing a lot of young guys in camp,’’ Barker admitted. “And we’ll see if they’re the right answer or not.”

Stewart’s former team in Montreal has committed virtually all of its off-season into shoring up a defence that got completely exposed when backups were asked to fill in for injured starters.

The name Stevie Baggs has even been mentioned as the Als admit they have floated the idea of bringing this one-time Ticat and Roughrider to Montreal.

Money is always an issue in the fiscally tight CFL and under no circumstance will any team fork over the kind of dough Hamilton did — $150,000 — to entice the free agent defensive end two years ago.

At least for the time being, what’s preventing teams from signing known veterans is money.

There’s also the idea of teams wanting to audition young talent that’s eager to impress, but even in this scenario money is a factor.

When vets come to camp, their contracts are guaranteed in the event of an injury.

If a rookie gets hurt, all teams need to do is cover for medical expenses.

Logically, a veteran is more prone to get injured given their advanced years, in most cases.

Interestingly, four running backs remain unsigned, four former featured backs who may or may not be back in the CFL: Avon Cobourne, Fred Reid, Joffrey Reynolds and Wes Cates.

The Argos have no need at running back with Cory Boyd.

Under rookie head coach Scott Milanovich, who served in Montreal as its offensive co-ordinator, Andre Durie should get touches in the backfield and there should always be a way to get Jeff Johnson and Chad Kackert involved in some packages.

At worse, an import such as Kackert is an ideal guy to have, just like he served last season when Boyd got hurt.

Stewart falls into the same category, but time will tell if the Argos decide to reach out.

ARGOS SIGN SIX

Hump day turned into a busy day, as far as the Argos were concerned.

A day after holding court with the national media via a conference call, the Argos on Wednesday announced six signings, while releasing an import receiver.

While offensive tackle Chris Patrick is the most accomplished CFL player of the group, perhaps the best-known name, at least among the Double Blue faithful, is Gerald Riggs.

The import running back, who will at least provide competition in camp, attended training camp last year.

The Argos also announced the signings of defensive backs Jalil Carter and Chris Golder and linebackers Bryan Payton and Craig Stevens.

Andrew Strickland was given his release.

ROGERS CENTRE CLASSIC?

The mere thought of the Labour Day classic being held in Toronto just doesn’t sound right, a notion that doesn’t resonate, but it’s a done deal.

At least for the 2013 edition.

When the CFL and the Ticats, who will play their final season at Ivor Wynne Stadium this year, finally dot all the proverbial i’s and cross all those perfunctory t’s, an announcement on next year’s schedule, which, for obvious reasons won’t involve the iconic venue as it gets remade, will be made and part of it will feature the rarest of games — Ticats vs. Argos at Rogers Centre on Sept. 2.

Given that the Rogers Centre controls everything, whatever money is left over will be turned over to Argos owner David Braley, who years ago bought the Ticats when it was teetering on the brink of collapse.

In part because of the Rogers Centre, the Argos were given a brutal schedule last year, a patchwork disaster that meant the annual Labour Day game in Hamilton did not feature the Argos.

Instead, it would be Montreal, but the atmosphere lacked that raw edge only an Argos-Ticats backdrop could provide.

It’s back this Labour Day and then it’ll move to Rogers Centre next year.


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