The forgotten Mann on Argos

Argonauts wide receiver Maurice Mann during practice at the University of Toronto's Mississauga...

Argonauts wide receiver Maurice Mann during practice at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, Aug. 16, 2012. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI Agency)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:42 PM ET

TORONTO - Mo Mann has had plenty of practice at being the forgotten man these past two seasons.

But the Argonauts receiver smells an opportunity right now and he’s ready for a change of pace.

In the areas the Double Blue need to make some pretty big improvements, the receiving corps and offensive line play are 1 and 1A. Which order they are in is pretty much up for debate.

But what no one is denying is that there is opportunity within both units.

So seeing Mann and former Calgary standout Ken-Yon Rambo flying around in practice and getting more reps than at any time this season, one wonders if a change could come as soon as this weekend.

“We are going to take a look at those guys,” head coach Scott Milanovich said of Mann and Rambo.

“They have to earn a spot. We have to make sure they know what they are doing out there. Later in the week we will make a decision.”

No one is saying for sure whose spot is in jeopardy — but you have to think Jason Barnes is looking over his shoulder.

Struggling to hold onto his spot among the starters, the hard-working former Eskimo has caught just seven passes for 69 yards in his past four games combined.

“The thing about Jason is he worked so hard,” Milanovich said. “His attitude has been outstanding. He has been a great teammate but for whatever reason it just hasn’t clicked for him. Everyone on this team who has coached him loves Jason Barnes. We hope things work out the best for him — but unfortunately in pro football everybody is under pressure most of the time.”

Mann, who joined the Argos about 10 months ago in a trade with Hamilton that sent defensive halfback Dee Webb down the QEW, has been in the wrong place at the wrong time on two occasions since last July that has seriously impeded his goal to solidify a spot.

Mann is hoping he is finally in the right spot at the right time.

First he got hit with a locker-room door that sliced the back of his foot for 11 stitches while with the Ticats early last July. That was heading into Week 3 last year after a huge opening game against Winnipeg when Mann had 120 yards receiving and a touchdown.

But the gash on his foot never really got a chance to heal and an early return to practice resulted in it getting infected. Mann lost two months to the injury, which had to be re-stitched, this time requiring 13 stitches. By the time he came back the likes of Chris Williams, Aaron Kelly and Bakari Grant had established themselves in the receiving corps and there was no place for Mann to play.

After arriving in Toronto late last season, Mann never did seem to find his place.

The arrival of Ricky Ray this spring seemed to rejuvenate Mann as he began training camp as one of Rays’ most reliable receivers.

But again some bad luck derailed that budding relationship. Laying out to catch a pass in the back of the end zone midway through camp, Mann caught his leg on something that wound up cutting him for 17 stitches on the inside of his leg and 18 stitches on the outside.

He has yet to see the field for the Scullers this season.

Mann said he felt he was good to go following the bye week but he failed to play his way onto the field.

Rambo is coming off an Achilles injury that was at the root of his release from Calgary. Based on his play yesterday, the Achilles is no longer a problem. He was running and making his cuts unburdened, but he still has to show the staff he can be a good fit in this offence.

The same applies to Mann.

It’s a little bit more per week and that’s what (coach Milanovich) has told me the whole time,” Mann said of his increased reps in practice.

“As long as he sees that I know what is going on, how to read the defence and how to understand our offensive philosophies, once I get that down I’ll get my opportunity and I can’t wait to get out there with Ricky (Ray).”

Mann is well aware of the bad luck he has experienced — but says giving up never entered his mind.

“I give the ultimate compliment to my dad (Terry Mann)” he said. “He has never let me quit anything. Even when I wanted to quit he would give me a ‘whuppin’ even for thinking about it. I just keep pushing and hopefully I can keep counting games.”

REINDERS WAITING IT OUT

It’s hard to say who is more excited about Joel Reinders return to the CFL.

His Oakville-based mother or the thousands of Argos fans who cringe every time QB Ricky Ray hits the turf.

At 6-foot-8 and 317 pounds, Reinders, with time, will help keep Ray upright.

In the meantime he might eat his mother out of house and home — but according to Reinders that’s fine with her after he has been off pursuing a football career in the U.S. for the past couple of off-seasons.

“I’m only 10 minutes away so it’s an easy morning drive to practice,” Reinders said. “My mom is definitely happy to have me back even if she is still worried about injuries and whatever else. Obviously she is happy to have me closer to home for sure.”

But in terms of helping the Argos out, there’s still some steps he needs to take first.

NEW PLAYBOOK

He has been into his playbook since Tuesday and while he’s confident he will get it down, that too is going to take at least a little time.

There’s also the matter of where Reinders fits best.

The former Waterloo Warrior said the team is still determining whether to use him at tackle or guard. If they decide he can help more at guard, Reinders expects he’ll have to put on a little weight.

“If I’m playing guard I think I need to be a little heavier,” he said. “Right now I’m 317, but at guard I think I would need to be at least 320 or 325. I’m still eating a lot, still into those protein shakes. I love it.”

Reinders spent last summer in the Cleveland Browns camp and then had an opportunity to join the defending Super Bowl chmpion N.Y. Giants camp these past couple of months. Joining the Argos half way through the season will pose some problems, but none that Reinders doesn’t think he can overcome.

“The big difference is in Cleveland and New York I had an entire summer to learn the playbook and do some one-on-one work with the offensive line coach,” he said. “Now, here, they’re almost mid-season, so the defences are in mid-season form and I’m just coming off a pre-season and a training camp. I’ll be able to pick it up, but it will definitely be a challenge for me.”


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