What does tonight mean for the Argos?

Bart Andrus

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, the CFL season doesn’t really start until Labour Day. There are too many weeks in the eight team league for any mid-summer game to carry extra weight in the standings. But tonight’s game against the Blue Bombers is more important than the win or the loss.

By this point, we all know that Toronto’s number one receiver Arland Bruce was sent home from Winnipeg for — among other things — failing to attend special teams meetings, forgetting his playbook on a flight to Calgary, and let’s not forget him playing his music too loud in the locker room.

When I first saw the Argos’ media guide for this season with new head coach Bart Andrus on the cover as opposed to, say, former league and Grey Cup Most Outstanding Player Kerry Joseph, I knew that the team was determined to turn the page from last year’s disaster with a new attitude, and that Andrus was the man to lead the change. He certainly made his presence felt with the Bruce benching.

He took part of the blame for Bruce’s outrageous tribute to Michael Jackson in the season opener by saying: “I made the mistake of telling him in camp that once he got to the end zone I didn’t care what he did, but he’s straight with it now and I think next time around he will celebrate in an appropriate manner.”

Bruce wasn’t too pleased when he heard he wouldn’t dress in Winnipeg, and took the chance to speak his mind to The Globe and Mail‘s Dave Naylor, who even offered him the chance to go off the record with his comments.

“For him to inactivate me because he says you’re not being a pro and fine me on top of that […] this is the second time he’s told me he could get rid of me. Instead of worrying about me, he needs to worry about getting the quarterback right and getting on his ass. I didn’t wait six months to sit on my ass because I know I can contribute to this team whether it has an all-star quarterback or a mediocre quarterback. I’m the wrong one to set an example with,” he said.

The Argos’ situation is ironically similar to the predicament that Blue Bombers coach Mike Kelly found himself in with Derick Armstrong (also a former All-Star receiver), where the first year coach ended up releasing Armstrong. Winnipeg went out two days later and upset Calgary.

Bruce and his agent have received permission from the club to explore trade possibilities, but it would be unlikely that Toronto could get an equally explosive offensive weapon in return. It’s certainly in each party’s best interests to bury the hatchets in time for next Saturday’s rematch at the Rogers Centre, especially if you are one of those standings observing people, because tonight’s loser will be alone in the East division cellar.

-Marc Tessier

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