It was hard to spot Cleo Lemon at Argos’ practice Tuesday.
Toronto’s starting quarterback stood on the sidelines wearing street clothes and sunglasses, as weather forced the team practice indoors to the Hershey Centre.
Lemon has been downgraded to the role of spectator for precautionary reasons, as he recovers from a concussion he suffered against Edmonton, in Moncton last Sunday.
He did not speak to the media Tuesday, but Argos’ head coach Jim Barker listed him as day-to-day.
“I can’t tell you what his situation is,” Barker told reporters. “It’s a daily thing and until we’re sure there are no issues he won’t be participating.
“We’ll find out as the week goes on.”
As a result, Toronto’s second-stringer Dalton Bell took the first-team snaps Tuesday, and Barker said if Lemon was not ready to dress by Thursday’s practice, Bell would get the start Saturday against Saskatchewan.
It had been rumoured Barker was ready to make this change regardless of the injury.
Toronto’s offence is the worst in the CFL, and after a 5-2 start to the year, the team has been unable to score more than 17 points in a game, losing four of their last five.
Lemon has had some success, boasting a 62.8 completion percentage with 2,666 yards in 12 games this season. Yet he’s thrown 14 interceptions, while only connecting on 10 touchdown passes.
Nevertheless, Barker has stuck with the former NFL player, and he made it clear that Lemon was still his guy.
“If Cleo is 100 per cent and can practice and go, Cleo is our starting quarterback,” he said.
Lemon went down after he was hit by Eskimos’ linebacker Maurice Lloyd in the fourth quarter of a 24-6 loss on Sunday.
Bell came in the game and in his short time playing went two-for-four, for 43 yards, with a sack and an interception.
In total he has only attempted 10 passes all season, completing five for 79 yards with the lone pick-off, and hasn’t started a regular season game since 2006, when was still at West Texas.
Better in exhibition
Yet, Bell had better numbers than Lemon in the pre-season, going 18-of-26 for 341 yards, while Lemon was 10-for-26 for only 98 yards.
If Bell does play against the Roughriders, it will be a familar foe. The 23-year-old spent the last two seasons in Saskatchewan, before being traded to the Argos this past off-season.
“I know a lot of the guys on the team and it would be fun to play against those guys,” he said after practice.
“I’m taking it day by day and hopefully Cleo gets well. I’ve had a concussion and know how it feels.”
Barker didn’t seem worried about having either Lemon or Bell in the lineup.
“If there’s anyone who knows Saskatchewan, it’s Dalton Bell,” Barker told reporters. “He ran their scout offence for two years so that’s a huge advantage for him.
“Dalton is a guy we brought here because we thought he could be a starting quarterback. If this is the week he gets his opportunity, we’re going to see where he’s at.”
If Lemon remains sidelined, and Bell does indeed become the number one, it would mean Toronto may activate Canadian rookie Danny Brannagan from the practice roster.
Brannagan, the Burlington, Ont. native who won the Vanier Cup title last year as a member of Queen’s University, would step into the role of third string quarterback for the Argos, behind Bell and Ken Dorsey.
It has been 13 years since a Canadian quarterback played in the CFL. The last to do so was Toronto native Giulio Caravatta, who started for the B.C. Lions on Oct. 27, 1996 against the Argos.
Another Question Mark
Lemon is not the only questionable starter on the weekend.
Part of the reason Toronto’s offence has struggled recently has been the fact they have been missing breakout running back Cory Boyd for two weeks.
Boyd has been sidelined since he suffered a concussion on Sept. 11, and was not present at practice Tuesday, as he has yet to return from a trip to Georgia.
Boyd had been attending the funeral of good friend Kenny McKinley, the Denver Broncos receiver (a former college teammate) who committed suicide last week.
Barker was unsure whether or not Boyd would be in game shape, but said it would become clear once he returns to the team.
“It’s hard to tell,” Barker told reporters.
“I just don’t know. I’ve stopped speculating. When a guy has a head injury I just move forward.”