Chad Kelly removed from Argos’ training camp, Cameron Dukes has ‘headstart’ to be starting QB

Photos: Ted Pritchard/3DownNation & Matt Johnson/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Chad Kelly was not on the Alumni Stadium turf and nowhere to be found during the Toronto Argonauts’ first day of training camp at the University of Guelph on Sunday.

The team’s media relations department told 3DownNation that head coach Ryan Dinwiddie would only be speaking about players on the field. Kelly was out there on Thursday during the Argos’ rookie camp but the Boatmen changed course, issuing a statement that the 30-year-old “is currently not participating in team activities” and he’s not at the Argonauts facilities in The Royal City.

I really haven’t talked much about the distractions, just talked about what our motto is start to finish. We gotta start fast just like we did last year, but we’ve got to finish the season,” Dinwiddie said. “We’re just trying to build the 2024 Argos.”

Kelly was suspended a minimum of nine games after the CFL found “unequivocal evidence” he broke the league’s gender-based violence policy. Second-year man Cameron Dukes was the first QB to take reps during 12-on-12, followed by Bryan Scott and six-foot-four, 225-pound rookie Hunter Raquet.

“For right now, it’s definitely nine games, from what we’re hearing, so we gotta have a plan and maybe it goes even a little bit longer than that,” Dinwiddie said. “For me, it’s just like if a quarterback got injured, got hurt, he’s not up, and the next guy’s up. We’ll see how it’s going to play out. Someone’s going to have to earn that job and once someone does, we feel like we can win football games with them.”

The Argonauts have an open roster spot to add another QB with Kelly suspended. According to Dinwiddie, there have not been any recent conversations with free agent Taylor Cornelius. Toronto has been in contact with quarterbacks on the team’s negotiation list. The bench boss said Dukes has a “headstart” at being QB1.

Cam proved last year he can win football games. When we got a chance to see him play, that’s when he really excited us. He’s gonna have a good future in this league,” Dinwiddie said. 

“When he shows he’s functioning and running the offence, the leadership will come as far as in the locker room. You gotta really take the reins and earn that starting job.”

Dukes started two games last season in Double Blue, his first came in Week 17 at Winnipeg and the last in Week 21 at Ottawa. The six-foot-one, 205-pound QB completed 17-of-31 passes for 231 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions while rushing four times for 34 yards and one major in a 31-21 loss to the Blue Bombers. He completed 22-of-34 passes for 317 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions while rushing eight times for 39 yards in a 27-22 win against the Reblacks.

I like to try to manifest and see myself out there playing in the games. Every week I prepared like I was gonna play. I’m fortunate to have had that opportunity last year and get that experience under my belt,” Dukes said.

“I just control what I can control. I don’t try to focus on outside factors or anything like that. I just want to come in, be a sponge, one step in front of the other and take one day at a time.”

Dukes played for the Indoor Football League’s Vegas Knighthawks during the 2022 season, completing 57.9 percent of his passes for 1,103 yards with 27 touchdowns and five interceptions plus three rushing touchdowns. The 25-year-old worked out for Winnipeg and Montreal ahead of the 2023 season while also having a conversation with the Edmonton Elks’ Chris Jones. He was signed by Toronto days before planning to report back to Las Vegas.

The Shepherdsville, Kentucky starred at Lindsey Wilson College, an NAIA program in Columbia, Ky. The six-foot-one, 205-pound signal caller was a three-time NAIA All-American and Mid-South Conference offensive player of the year at the school while throwing for 10,439 yards, 114 touchdowns, and just 21 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,944 yards and 34 touchdowns in 49 career games, helping lead the team to a national championship during the 2021 spring season.

“A lot of people think smaller school, competition level — I heard that a lot,” Dukes said. “I’m out here playing the game that I love, I have passion for it and you have to adapt. The speed is different, guys are bigger, but football is football.”

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