June 24, 2011

Brannagan among 13 Argonaut cuts


MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — The Danny Brannagan era with the Toronto Argonauts is over.

The former Queen’s star was among the Argos final 13 cuts Friday as the CFL club reached the league-mandated 46-man roster limit. Brannagan suffered a wrist injury in an exhibition loss to Hamilton and lost out the final quarterback spot to rookie B.J. Hall.

But Toronto head coach/GM Jim Barker, a passionate supporter of Canadian-born quarterbacks, didn’t immediately close the door on Brannagan’s CFL tenure.

“The Danny Brannagan experiment is over for now,” Barker said Friday. “There were considerations to it (putting Brannagan on practice roster), we just couldn’t afford it.

“We didn’t have the roster room to do it, that’s what is difficult . . . we can talk about Canadian quarterbacks but there comes a point where he has to warrant that spot and we felt at this point we couldn’t warrant that spot.”

The six-foot, 198-pound Brannagan, a native of Burlington, Ont., captured the 2009 Hec Crighton Trophy as Canadian university football’s outstanding player. He capped his college career in style, leading Queen’s to the Vanier Cup.

He signed as a free agent with Toronto and spent the bulk of last season on the practice roster. But his CFL future became precarious when the Argos landed veteran Stephen Jyles in an off-season trade with Winnipeg to battle incumbent Cleo Lemon.

Although Jyles missed all of camp with a shoulder ailment, Lemon cemented the No. 1 job on merit and will lead Toronto to its regular-season opener July 1 in Calgary. Brannagan didn’t see any action in Toronto’s 30-23 exhibition win over Winnipeg while Hall did.

“B.J. Hall has a lot of athletic ability and Danny got hurt, which hurt him in the end,” Barker said. “Five years from now if (Brannagan) was able to be around here a guy coming up couldn’t beat him out.

“But that’s not the case right now. It’s a tough decision we had to make.”

Brannagan won’t be unemployed long. Upon graduation from Queen’s, where he studied commerce, Brannagan landed a job at a Hamilton accounting firm that had been put on hold while he was in the CFL.

Also released were offensive lineman Shannon Boatman and receiver James Robinson – both veterans – and promising rookie Jerome Hewitt, who had a punt return TD against Winnipeg on Thursday but also had two fumbles, losing one.

“The whole key is the head coach have a warm, fuzzy feeling when he’s back there and I didn’t have that,” Barker said of Hewitt.

The six-foot, 213-pound Robinson spent three seasons in Toronto, registering 52 catches for 747 yards and three TDs.

“James is a guy who has done nothing but be a true pro,” Barker said. “I just felt like he didn’t win the job.”

CFL teams have until 3 p.m. ET on Saturday to make their final cuts. Clubs must get their rosters down to 46 players, of which only 42 dress for games.

But players who are cut can remain on a club’s practice roster.

CFL teams can have up to seven players on the PR once they clear the 48-hour waiver period.

The 2011 CFL season opens Thursday night with the Montreal Alouettes beginning their Grey Cup title defence at home to the B.C. Lions.

The Alouettes, too, got a head start on finalizing their roster, releasing eight players. Included was Montreal native Renaldo Sagesse, 24, a rookie defensive tackle from Michigan who was the club’s fourth-round pick in this year’s Canadian college draft.

That means Montreal will open the season with two veteran kickers – Sean Whyte and Sandro DeAngelis – on its roster.