Andrew Harris high on Chad Kelly but believes Argos will miss McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s leadership

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Veteran running back Andrew Harris believes in Chad Kelly as the Toronto Argonauts’ new starting quarterback but knows the team will miss the veteran leadership from McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

“You’re never going to be able to replace a leader like Mac. Chad had a lot to learn from Mac, how to be a leader and how to be a quarterback in this league, so hopefully he takes some of those pieces and instils them into his own game and his own character and we can move on from such a big loss like Mac and hopefully get Chad to be playing at a high level consistently,” Harris said.

“He’s definitely a guy that likes to make those big plays, he’s not afraid to extend plays. Working with him and getting to know him a little better, he brings a different attitude, he brings a different energy than what you’re accustomed to getting from a young quarterback. I think as he evolves and understands the CFL game a lot more, he’s only going to get better but he’s got all the physical tangibles to do great things.”

Bethel-Thompson recently elected not to return to the Argos after reaching free agency, choosing instead to sign with the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL. The 34-year-old made it clear that he holds the CFL in high esteem and his decision to play south of the border was made primarily in an effort to be closer to his family. He is also hoping to earn another shot at the NFL.

The native of San Francisco, Calif. made over $350,000 this past season and would likely have earned a raise after helping lead his team to win the Grey Cup. USFL players will reportedly be paid $5,350 per week over this year’s 10-game regular season along with $400 per week to cover the cost of housing. Even with potential playoff bonuses, Bethel-Thompson will earn well under $100,000 with the Breakers this season.

Meanwhile, Kelly made his first career CFL start in the final week of this past regular season, throwing for 264 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in a 38-33 loss to the Montreal Alouettes. He also rushed six times for 35 yards and one touchdown.

The soon-to-be 29-year-old took over the controls from Bethel-Thompson in the fourth quarter of the Grey Cup after the veteran passer suffered a dislocated thumb. He threw for 43 yards and carried the ball twice for 21 yards, including a 20-yard scamper that set-up the game-winning touchdown by A.J. Ouellette.

Harris is returning for a final CFL season with the primary goal of winning his fifth Grey Cup. He is expecting to take on a reduced role in 2023 as Ouellette becomes the team’s primary ball carrier, though he is still hoping to make an impact on offence. He will also look to continue providing leadership as Kelly, a former NFL draft pick, helms his first season as the Argos’ starter in the three-down league.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.