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The Argos Pushing Towards Playing First Preseason Game Despite Uncertainties

Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie opened Tuesday’s media scrum by saying he was disappointed with this team’s effort in practice. Dinwiddie cited a difference in his team’s energy level and wondered if his players were “mentally beat up.”

Ryan Dinwiddie stopped short on elaborating on his team’s mindset. But it’s fair to wonder if the possibility of a league stoppage due to an impasse on the CBA is why players are slowing down before potentially coming to a complete stop. After all, they haven’t received a green light to push towards the season.

Dark Cloud Hovering Over The Argos And The CFL

Perhaps sometime after this article is published, disaster will be averted, and the CFL will be back on the right track towards the 2022 season. One can hope. But for now, at this moment, the uncertainty that has become a regular theme in the CFL remains prevalent.

For what it’s worth, after the CFLPA rejected the initially agreed-upon terms of a new CBA two days ago. The league has submitted a new proposal to the players union that they hope will rectify any lingering issues on what is a proposed seven-year agreement. The D-date, or deadline for approval, is this Thursday at midnight.

A year ago, CFL teams like the Argos operated under a cloud of uncertainty. Not only were they coming off of a lost year due to the pandemic. But teams like the Argos had to navigate new uncharted waters operating under strict pandemic rules. Player and coach quarantines were commonplace in training camps a year ago.

No one wants to even mention the word COVID. It’s still out there, but many of the restrictions that limited CFL teams a year are gone. The elephant in the room this year is now a pending work stoppage. Fans, players, and the entire league have endured a lot since the 2019 season ended, and the world as a whole shifted.

It’s easy to understand why there is some trepidation right now with players. Just like a year ago, they are not practicing and getting ready for a season under normal circumstances. Hopefully, this is only a temporary mindset and status.

Roster News

The Argos have made an addition and subtraction to their roster. Toronto has added DL Jake Hlava and released DB Cam Glenn.

Cameron Glenn has been with the Toronto Argonauts since 2019. The 26-year-old Wake Forest alum was one of the few remaining Boatmen from the 2019 roster still on the roster. There are only nine players left in the Six from three years ago. Glenn was a hard-working player who lived on the fringe, spending most of his time with the Argonauts on the practice roster. Toronto is so deep in their secondary that Glenn became expendable. The team also parted ways with veterans Jeff Richards and Crezdon Butler earlier this year.

Jake Hlava is an intriguing defensive line prospect out of Grand Valley State. Hlava has been working hard to get an opportunity with a pro football team since graduating in 2021. He’s entering the Toronto party in a very deep defensive line crew late in the process. But perhaps the two-way skills he displayed against the run and pass at GVU will net him a long-term look.

Preseason Game Playing Time

Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie plans on using a three-player rotation at the QB position Friday night but is unsure if starter McLeod Bethel-Thompson will dress. The likelihood is that he won’t, but Dinwiddie plans to give MBT some reps in the June 3 preseason finale at Guelph against the Tiger-Cats. Provided that there isn’t a work stoppage by then.

Antonio Pipkin could see a series as the starter on the pivot this Friday against Ottawa. But all eyes will be on QB Chad Kelly. The former SEC standout and NFL signal-caller have received positive reviews in his first few days as a CFL rookie. Kelly is delighted to be back on a football field again. But he is still learning the nuances of the Canadian game as he goes along. Kelly’s work ethic has impressed coach Dinwiddie and the team’s staff.

American QB Cole McDonald, the former Hawaii QB and 7th round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans, saw some action in the 2021 regular-season finale but did not show up for Argos training camp. His status moving forward is unknown as he remains on the suspended list. But it’s opened the door for American QB Austin Simmons to get an extended look. Ryan Dinwiddie has been a fan of the South Dakota passer for quite some time. But admitted that his performance in camp has been very up and down. Although Dinwiddie did say that he is getting better each day.

Simmons was a standout player in the Mid-Valley Football Conference. But unlike Chad Kelly, he does have some CFL experience, albeit minimal, having spent time on the Alouettes and Hamilton roster. This is Simmons’s third stop in the CFL with Toronto. The in-game action is vital to players like him.

Candian rookie OL Gregor MacKellar, Toronto’s sixth overall selection in the 2022 CFL Draft, will also see valuable playing time this Friday. The Argos have been playing MacKellar at left guard, but Ryan Dinwiddie told the media that he could see some snaps at centre. The plan is for MacKellar to get most of the reps at guard against Ottawa.

Rookie runner Daniel Adeboboye is also expected to see significant reps. But RB AJ Ouellete is expected to get the start on Friday in place of Andrew Harris. The team is planning to rotate four different runners against the Redblacks.

Most of the team’s rookies are expected to get a heavy load of playing time. Veterans are going to play more in the second preseason game to get ready for Toronto’s regular season opener, which doesn’t begin until week 2 at home versus Montreal. Andrew Harris is expected to make his Argos debut in that game. Here’s hoping that we get to Friday, and the lead up to the CFL regular season as scheduled.

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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