TORONTO - Whether it was the sound of Scott Milanovich scolding his lacklustre group, the sight of players in different jersey numbers, the amount of reps given to projected first-teamers on either side of the ball, all signs in Argoland reflected the changing time.
With the regular season now on the horizon, no longer is a time for evaluation, no longer wondering which piece will fit into what slot when the time is now to game plan for the Edmonton Eskimos, who will play host to the Argos next Saturday as Ricky Ray makes his heralded return to the Alberta capital.
“We are done with the evaluations,’’ Milanovich said when Friday’s gathering was completed. “We’re game planning for Edmonton.”
Barring something completely out of the blue, the Double Blue is not expected to make a huge splash when Saturday night’s late-night cutdown date in the CFL is over and done with, a process fraught with so much behind the scene manoeuvring that even if a household name gets released there’s always the chance of the player resurfacing.
Just when one thought they had seen the last of Stephen Good, the Argos brought back the import offensive lineman on Friday as George Bussey, a one-time draft pick of the New England Patriots, was let go.
Part of the CFL game of limited roster sizes involves a player’s approach to the practice roster, a non-active mechanism where players are paid barely enough to survive, especially in a market such as the GTA.
The Argos, like every other team, will put players on waivers, will release a few and come to some agreement on prospects who are likely to begin the season on the practice roster.
But make no mistake, the Argos now mean business and Milanovich’s expletive-deletive challenge mid-way through Friday’s practice sounded the alarms of what awaits and what expectations the Argos have been given.
An all-Canadian offensive line is what the Argos are going to throw at Edmonton, a predominant American look on defence, especially when one considers how uncertain Jason Pottinger’s status remains at linebacker.
Milanovich is no doctor, but the rookie head coach did say Pottinger’s surgically repaired knee is bothering the Mac product.
Whether it was Pottinger’s injury or more realistically the availability of a player familiar with Chris Jones’ defence, anyone at Friday’s gathering had to notice Robert McCune, recently released by Calgary, lining up with the first-team defence at middle linebacker.
In Jones’ defence, players are asked to play fast and aggressive, run to the ball and make plays.
If mistakes are made, which is a given, effort can’t ever be questioned.
It’s on offence, though, where the biggest questions remain, an offence that must somehow entertain fans in Toronto, but also win.
The return of Jason Barnes to practice was a welcome sight, as was the perfectly thrown deep ball tossed by Ricky Ray to Chad Owens, in stride.
By the time Ray returns to Edmonton for next Saturday night’s kickoff, Milanovich will have enough plays to make Ray comfortable.
What can’t be answered is how well the offensive line will play and who will line up as starters.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,’’ said veteran lineman Wayne Smith, projected to start at left tackle. “We’re getting used to new bodies, a new system.
“We’re away from where we need to be.”
The Argos, who closed out a 2-0 pre-season on Tuesday afternoon, were given the last two days off before reconvening on Friday.
It was understandable the tempo would suffer, but Milanovich is in no position to allow any slippage, which is why he chewed out his team.
“We started sluggishly,’’ offensive lineman Andrew Jones said. “Coach got on us.
“Now is the time where we find out as a team where we stack up against everybody else. You have to be serious on every rep. There’s no time to be lazy.”