July 5, 2019

O’Leary: Argos remaining positive through adversity

Shannon Vizniowski/CFL.ca

When you’ve gotten off to the start that the Toronto Argonauts have, you look for the good anywhere you can find it.

For S.J. Green, that came on Thursday night.

We had a receivers night and we were supposed to meet up around 7:30 and I invited (McLeod Bethel-Thompson) to come with us,” Green said of the team’s new starting quarterback.

“He said, ‘Hey man, I won’t be out of the locker room until 6:30, or 7:00.’ That gave me a good sense of his mindset, of where we’re trying to go.”

It’s the early days of a long season, so the Argos’ 0-2 start isn’t that concerning record-wise. That’s the same thing that the visiting BC Lions — who fell to 0-3 after letting a win slip through their fingers in Calgary last week — will tell you before they face the Argos on Saturday.

» Buy Tickets: Lions at Argonauts
» McLeod Bethel-Thompson to start for Toronto in Week 4
» Prediction Time: CFL.ca writers make their Week 4 picks


What’s troubling is the way the Argos have lost. There was their season-opening 50-point loss to Hamilton. They followed that up by dropping a 32-7 decision to Saskatchewan on Canada Day, where the Roughriders were up 26-0 at halftime. The offence has been out of sync and only managed two touchdowns so far. Green and his fellow receiver, Derel Walker, aren’t being targeted enough. Defensive players can’t seem to make tackles and no one on the defensive side of the ball has sacked a quarterback yet.

The losses have been tough, Green admitted, but there was only positivity exuding from outside of the Argos’ locker room at BMO Field after their walkthrough on Friday.

“In my opinion you just have to stay positive. You’ve got to be a professional. You’ve got to fight the good fight, you’ve got to get up on the right side of the bed and come to work with a positive attitude,” he said.

“If you let the negativity fester in your mind and create doubt then you’ve already lost.”

Corey Chamblin knows the highs and the lows of the CFL very well. He led the Riders to a Grey Cup win on home soil in 2013 and watched two years later as his team fell to 0-9, before his dismissal. Just months into his hiring in Toronto, his job is far from being on the line but this start has provided a challenge for him that he hasn’t seen before. That Riders team in 2015 lost six of those games by a combined 19 points.

“You never want to start this way. I think there’s been a slow process of progress,” Chamblin said.

“Where we are, I think we’re better than what shows on the scoreboard. I think in some areas, we’re better than what we’ve shown.”

With James Franklin on the six-game injured list with a torn hamstring, the Argos will have something relatively new to show with Bethel-Thompson in at quarterback. The 31-year-old made 198 of 303 passes last year for 2,193 yards, with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Watching from the sidelines for the majority of the last two games and learning Jacques Chapedlaine’s offence this year, Bethel-Thompson thinks the offence is close to a breakthrough.

“I think we’re a lot closer than people think,” he said.

“It’s there and it’s just (a matter of) inches. I’ve got to scramble and fight for the inches too and once you break it open this game is such an ebb and flow game, such a start or stop game. It’s feast or famine in a lot of ways. It’s such a big field and once you kind of pry open those inches then it becomes yards and then it becomes big plays and we’re really close to that.”

S.J. Green is hoping his Argonauts can win their first game this weekend at BMO Field (Shannon Vizniowski/CFL.ca)

Green’s 1,095-yard season was one of the few bright spots on last year’s four-win team. He put the majority of that together last year with Bethel-Thompson leading the offence.

“His presence. He’s vocal…he tells everybody what they have to do. He just gives the feeling that he’s in control and that to me is what stands out the most. Also his preparation. He’s one of the first guys here, the last guys to leave.”

The receivers night is intended to get that group on the same page. Camaraderie built off of the field leads to chemistry on it, Green said. The Argos are in a hole to start the season but they know the only way out of it is to work together and correct the mistakes that have plagued them so far.

Chamblin said he hasn’t changed things up in practice or in meetings. He’s not trying to raise spirits this early in the season.

“If their spirits have broken after this, then they’re not tough,” he said.

“Adversity reveals character and it reveals who you are right now. I still see guys coming to work. I still see guys pushing to get this thing turned around.

“I told them the other day, we’re headed in the right direction. And sooner or later I know we’re going to get that victory. It’s just getting a little bit more wind behind those sails. And if we’re not, we’ve just got to get more guys doing what they need to do to make sure that this thing happens sooner rather than later.’