The Toronto Argonauts’ season opener couldn’t have gone much worse, and after the 50-point loss to the rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats a lot of the criticism focused on the team’s readiness for the game.
The Argos returned to work Tuesday, with their first practice after the blowout loss focused on the fundamentals. The team said they will put more emphasis on conditioning going forward.
“The conditioning and practice, that’s not a good sign,” CFL on TSN analyst Davis Sanchez said. “Any team I’ve been on, the conditioning [came] from vet players conditioning with themselves after practice. I don’t think that’s a good sign. [Argos head coach] Corey Chamblin obviously saw something within the effort of his team that has him concerned.”
There was also concern about how the Argos finished the blowout loss. With Ticats linebacker Rico Murray returning a McLeod Bethel-Thompson interception for a touchdown on the final play, veteran players S.J. Green, Armanti Edwards and James Wilder Jr. were seen walking off the field.
Green said Tuesday he regretted it.
“Our coach always preaches, ‘just finish.’ No matter what the situation is, no matter what the scoreboard is, be a man and finish the job,” Green said. “So I do regret running off the field like that. I wish I would have waited … It’s just one of those things you wish you could take back.”
While Chamblin said he is looking for that finish from his team, he dismissed any notion of further discipline for his veteran players.
“The biggest thing is when you have to face your teammates,” Chamblin said. “It’s also a correction period to see where you need to get stronger and where some identifiable weaknesses are. I think those guys understand that’s not what we’re going to do. No matter what the score looks like, we have to stand there and take it on the chin. You have to make sure you don’t get too high with the highs and too low with the lows.”
Sanchez took it a step further and said it didn’t bother him as a former player.
“I don’t even know if I would have addressed it. It’s not a big deal to me,” Sanchez said. “Not everybody is Harry High School Try Hard and wants to shake hands after the game. Some people are upset and don’t want to deal with it.”
While the news coming out of Argos practice this week is not flattering, the team isn’t pressing the panic button. The Argos stressed this early in the season and a Week 3 meeting with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Monday can’t come soon enough.
“It’s Week 1, and there’s a lot of football left in the season,” defensive end Shawn Lemon said. “Every CFL team is a very good team so you have to bring your lunch pail every week. We didn’t do it last week but we’ll be fine.”
"The message from management is calm. That basically this was a game that wasn’t far out of reach at half time, and it really only got ugly once the injuries started to pile up and the Argonauts were playing guys that were out of position all over their secondary," said TSN Football Insider Dave Naylor. "They’re not talking about a quarterback change or anything like that. They also recognize that having 16 days off between their second pre-season game and their opener because of the bye week, didn’t really help them."
And while remaining calm wasn't what Chamblin was known for during his time as the head coach in Saskatchewan, the second-time head coach appears to have brought a more composed demeanour to Toronto.
"Calm is not an easy thing for Corey Chamblin," said TSN's Farhan Lalji. "If you go back to his days as the head coach of the Roughriders, the stories were legendary of him going into film sessions and meetings after a bad loss and absolutely tearing a strip off players and coaches. But speaking to players in Toronto this week, the feeling is that we’ve got a much more measured Corey Chamblin and that’s probably a good thing, given what that team is dealing with right now as far as injuries are concerned."
The Argos and Roughriders conclude Week 3 Monday starting with the pre-game show at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 pm PT across the TSN Network and on TSN Direct.