Toronto Argonauts to stay the course despite 0-2 start

Don’t expect general manager Jim Popp to make wholesale changes following the Toronto Argonauts’ 0-2 start to their season.

The Calgary Stampeders thumped Toronto 41-7 on Saturday night in a rematch of last year’s Grey Cup, which the Argonauts won 27-24. The lopsided loss came after Toronto’s season-opening 27-19 road defeat to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“If we made any change it would be very minimal, if any,” Popp said Monday. “We’ve got 20 of 24 starters back, we’re way ahead of where we were a year ago in regards to guys knowing what they’re doing, understanding the system and knowing the culture.

“We won a Grey Cup with most of these guys, we’ve had another draft, we added some key free agents . . . We just haven’t performed as well as we wanted to.”

The Argos hired Popp and head coach Mark Trestman on Feb. 27, 2017, just over three months before the start of the regular season. Toronto headed into the second half of the ’17 campaign with a 4-6 record but won five of its last eight regular-season games to clinch first in the East, then downed Saskatchewan 25-21 in the conference final before capping its campaign with a stunning Grey Cup victory.

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Popp said. “Now, every single game is important because you learn something and find things out and maybe some of these losses early on tell us something that maybe we didn’t quite think about.

“We shocked a lot of people doing what we did last year . . . but it didn’t mean we played that great early on so we’ll see if we can’t get us playing back at a much higher level of football these next couple of weeks than how we finished the game (Saturday night).”

But Toronto lost more than a game as veteran quarterback Ricky Ray left the field on a stretcher with his head immobilized after being sandwiched between Calgary defensive linemen Ja’Gared Davis and Cordarro Law. Play was halted for over 20 minutes as medical personnel treated Ray.

Ray, 38, has been a model of resiliency during his Argos tenure, successfully overcoming knee injuries, a partially deflated lung and shoulder surgery to return to the lineup. But watching a respected future Hall of Fame player leaving the field strapped down on a stretcher was certainly concerning to fans as well as players and officials on both teams.

If there’s a silver lining to the cloud currently hanging over the Argos, it’s they have the luxury of time. Toronto is on a bye week and doesn’t resume its season until July 7 at home to Edmonton.

So the Argos can make the move from York University to their new full-time digs at BMO Field. The club has time to get a clearer picture of Ray’s situation and prepare James Franklin to face his former team if Ray can’t play.

Franklin was 8-of-13 passing for 65 yards versus Calgary and scored the Argos’ lone TD on a 10-yard run.

“Yeah, we’re 0-2, no one wants to start out that way,” Popp said. “We have a bye week maybe at the right time and just have to re-assess.

“We’ll look at everything very thoroughly, we’ve already watched the film, we’ll look at more film here in the off-week and get back to preparation and try to get back on the winning track.”

– CP

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