Argos release Wroten, seven others

Defensive lineman Armond Armstead had mixed emotions yesterday, as several Argo hopefuls were cut...

Defensive lineman Armond Armstead had mixed emotions yesterday, as several Argo hopefuls were cut loose, including his roommate, Jonathan Pierre-Etienne, but it may work in his favour.

BILL LANKOFF, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:39 PM ET

All it took was one day for Armond Armstead to taste both the harsh reality of professional football, and a hint of a brighter future.

Armstead — rejected by the NFL just months ago — moved one step closer to landing a job on the Toronto Argonauts’ defensive line Sunday when the club announced it had released 2011 starting tackle Claude Wroten. It came the same day the club announced seven other cuts, including Armstead’s training camp roommate, Jonathan Pierre-Etienne, a rookie lineman out of the University of Montreal.

“It’s my first experience seeing guys cut,” said Armstead, a 6-foot-4, 295 pound rookie out of USC. “You know a lot of guys won’t be here (when the season starts) but ... I was getting pretty close to (Pierre-Etienne) so that’s kind of rough. He’s a smart dude. I like him and it sucked to see him go.

“I didn’t know what happened to Claude. He wasn’t in meetings (Saturday) night but I didn’t realize he’d been cut.”

For a lot of players, the comings and goings can be a bit unnerving.

“Even back in high school, my coach wouldn’t cut guys,” Armstead, said grinning. “He would work guys hard and some of them would quit but he wouldn’t send you home. Even at USC, they had cuts for walk-ons but I was on scholarship so I never saw it. I was on the team.”

And, he now could very well be on this team with the unexpected departure of Wroten, who arrived last year to much fanfare. A four-year veteran of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, Wroten was suspended for the 2008 season by the NFL after repeatedly testing positive for marijuana. After smoking himself out of the NFL he vowed he would never succumb again and in his first CFL game registered two sacks and five tackles. General manager Jim Barker believed he and Kevin Huntley would form an inside wall on the defensive line for years.

But Wroten had an inconsistent season. While he could be engaging personally, he also frustrated management — and some teammates — with a low key (some might suggest lackadaisical) approach.

“I’m not going to say anything about that,” Barker said Sunday. “Ultimately it comes down to what happens on the field. When you evaluate players you evaluate everything. You evaluate body language. You evaluate how good they get off blocks, how they rush the passer, a lot of things. The whole package comes into deciding who you are going to keep.”

Wroten seemed a free-spirited individual and while there were superb performances such as a Week 5 game in Edmonton in which he had seven tackles, there were also times when he seemed almost disinterested. Or, at least, not interested enough.

“We had to move on,” Barker said “He’s a very talented athlete. It comes down to the best players make the team; he wasn’t one of the best players in this training camp. Maybe he wasn’t in the kind of shape; I don’t know. I was very surprised but you go on production and he hasn’t been productive.”

The club also announced the release of defensive back Nick Clement, running back Allen Ervin, offensive lineman Zach Pollari, receiver Corey Surrency and defensive lineman Bernard Smith as it starts to reduce its roster to 46 players by next Saturday. Receiver Demario Ballard was also released but remains with the club to rehabilitate a leg injury. It means another 19 faces will disappear, most of them after Tuesday’s final preseason game.

“We won’t mess around. We’ll get it done right away,” said Barker.

Wroten’s departure is another sign that tenure, with a new coaching staff and a new system in place, no longer guarantees a roster spot.

“I think it’s important for guys to understand they have to come out here and perform or they’re not going to be here. And,” said Barker, “it doesn’t matter what your name is or where you are pencilled in.”

If some other veterans weren’t looking over their shoulders before, with a week of training camp left, this might be a good time. The offensive line remains an open audition. At running back Chad Kackert and Gerald Riggs are auditioning for the same backup spot behind Cory Boyd.

Receivers? Considering they’ve been running routes through the trainers’ room, who starts opening night is a medical mystery, if not one to head coach Scott Milanovich.

“Anytime you win six games (as Toronto did in 2011) there is going to be turnover,” Barker said.

Armstead looms as part of that turnover. He’s only 22 and, but for a medical condition that scuttled his Pro Day at USC and scared off scouts, chances are he’d have been a high-round NFL draft. Armstead said he has had every test known to medical science for what is believed to have been a cardiac scare - and not one of those exams showed a problem.

“He’s a bright-eyed young kid that loves being here and that goes a long way,” Barker said.

Wroten, meantime, is headed back to Bastrop, La., for some hunting, fishing and ramblin’ through the bayou on his ATV because he loves being there. But, then, he seemed mostly to love being anywhere. Which was both his most endearing — and, his most infuriating — quality.


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