TORONTO - The Argonauts had their first true, full day off Thursday since the start of training camp on June 2.
Sight-seeing. House-hunting. Sitting poolside or on the beach, relaxing in a hot tub. They were all on some agendas. Maybe a little fishing. Ah, sweet reprieve.
So, what does Jarious Jackson do?
“In the gym, getting the old bones lubed up,” he says, laughing. After eight CFL seasons, the bones take a little more lubing at age 35 then they did when he first appeared on the Canadian football horizon with the B.C. Lions in 2004.
But if there is such a thing as a young 35, Jackson would be such a thing. In all but one of those seasons he has been a backup. Since 2006 he has dressed for 98 games. Only in 2009, when he was injured for 10 games, has he not been on the sidelines for every one of his team’s games.
The key word here being “sidelines”.
There is not quite so much wear and tear on those “old bones” as there might be on the average 35-year-old-pro quarterback.
But, that view from the sidelines also means that while he is widely respected within the game, he hasn’t become a household name anywhere this side of Rocky Mountain House.
“It is, what it is. I have no regrets. I believe everything happens for a reason,” Jackson said in a telephone interview, the day after the Argos cut their roster and announced he had won the job as backup to Ricky Ray.
When the Argos open the season June 30 in Edmonton, it will be the first time since 2004 that Jackson is not wearing a B.C. Lions uniform.
The Argonauts wanted a proven veteran to back up Ray, and they wanted a mentor for youngsters such as Trevor Harris. They get that in Jackson who commands respect. Already his impact is being felt in the clubhouse. “I don’t know. I just try to be me,” he says, “I like people to be straight with me and I try to be straight with them.”
So it is that he has not only learned, but also accepted and embraced, his place in the game.
“I’ve been third string and I also started one season. A lot of guys are sitting at home right now with nowhere to play. We can all moan about certain aspects of our jobs. But at the end of the day, I’m still playing and I consider myself blessed.
“Would I like to start, sure I’d like to be a starter. I’m a competitive guy and I like playing.”
But he also knows that will rarely happen this year. Oh, there are some wrinkles in the playbook and he’s in on short-yardage. But, truth is, if he’s playing it can be for only two reasons. Both bad. Only if Ray is hurt, or unable to move the offence, is Jackson likely to see long-term duty.
As a backup, it’s all about always “being ready; being prepared,” he said.
So, it’s kind of like being football’s version of a Boy Scout.
He chuckles at the analogy. “I don’t know about the Boy Scout thing ... but in a way it’s harder than being a starter in that you never know when you’re going in. At least when you start you know that much.”
Backups don’t get a lot of reps in practice either. Jackson has learned to play mind games. When the starter is taking snaps in practice, he’ll stand and go through exactly the same motions and mind sets as if he himself were taking the snap.
“You have to work on doing your reads and drops mentally ... you simulate every play as if you are the one calling it. You have to keep your head into it; know what’s going on, you have to be ready to jump in like Double Dutch.”
Meantime, he helps in other ways. He uses his eyes.
He has the coaches’ ears.
He’ll make suggestions and observations. “Anything to help us win. I’m not a coach; I’m still a player but I guess it is a bit like being an armchair quarterback.”
Argos’ receiver Jason Barnes is just a barber pole short of a career alternative.
“I used to cut hair in a barbershop when I played Arena Football (in Sacramento). So I’ll be doing the team barbering to earn a little spending money,” the receiver said, earlier in training camp.
It’s a recession-proof. And, he has a captive clientele. “I mean, it doesn’t matter what the economy is doing,” Barnes said, laughing, “everybody still needs a haircut.”
TOWER O POWER
Lineman Joe Eppele climbed the CN Tower stairs this winter for charity. And, he didn’t waste any time. “Last year I did it in 19 minutes, this year I did it in just under 17,” he said.
Which is pretty impressive, especially considering what he did before the climb ... and, what he didn’t do (pass the barf baggie, please) afterwards.
“I went through a leg workout with Jeff (Keeping) and Chris Van Zehl that morning. Then we went out for sushi afterwards. Going up with a belly full of raw fish wasn’t the best move but I still beat my time.”
Georgia a hotbed for CFL prospects
A Georgia high school has become somewhat of an unofficial farm team for CFL teams.
Argonauts’ first-year linebacker Marcus Ball is the latest former star at Stephenson High School, in Stone Mountain, Ga., to find a home in Canadian football.
“We don’t have the best facilities or the best equipment but we always have a lot of guys coming out for the teams, great coaches and there’s a strong community following and help,” Ball said.
The school has become a feeding ground for U.S. colleges, leading the state of Georgia in college signees for the third consecuitve year in 2012.
It had 26 players sign to play college football with 14 heading to Division 1 programs. Among the other grads to make it into the CFL: Byron Parker, Anthony Cannon, Sean Lucas and Michael Grant.
“It’s in the U.S. so obviously there isn’t a lot of connection (in the commiunity) with the CFL. On the other hand,” said Ball, “it is regarded as a good option among the players. Nobody’s bashing guys for playing up here; it’s respected.”