Arland Bruce absent at Argo’s practice

The Arland Bruce III saga in Toronto seems to be coming to a quick end.

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — The Arland Bruce III saga in Toronto seems to be coming to a quick end.

Two CFL sources requesting anonymity said Tuesday night the Argos were in serious talks to trade Bruce to arch-rival Hamilton, though one of the sources said two other potential suitors were also in the running.

While the source wouldn’t divulge the identities of the other interested teams, Calgary and Winnipeg are reportedly interested in the talented but controversial receiver.

The sources said a deal could be completed as early as Wednesday.

The Argos returned to the practice field Tuesday without Bruce, who was barred from the team last week by head coach Bart Andrus.

The five-foot-11, 194-pound Bruce didn’t attend team meetings Tuesday morning and wasn’t on the field when practice began afterwards.

Bruce was reportedly poised to rejoin his teammates before being told by club officials earlier in the morning to stay away.

Bruce met with Argos GM Adam Rita on Sunday but Andrus is said to have final say on his future. And on Tuesday, the first-year CFL head coach made it very clear he doesn’t want Bruce around.

“He’s not here today because I don’t want him here today,” Andrus said emphatically. “That’s why.

“We’re looking at a lot of different things, a lot of different ways to bring this to a resolution. But right now I do not want him around the team.”

The Bruce saga certainly has garnered a lot of attention. Maybe three or four reporters attend a typical Argos practice, but Tuesday’s session attracted roughly triple that amount.

Andrus didn’t bring Bruce to Winnipeg for last Friday’s 19-5 victory against the Blue Bombers, saying he was disciplining the six-year Argo for breaking team rules.

Instead of quietly accepting the move, Bruce, in his eighth CFL season, made matters worse by publicly criticizing Andrus and quarterback Kerry Joseph.

News of the pending deal was not surprising, as Andrus’s body language and the emphatic tone of his voice when he spoke earlier Tuesday strongly suggested Bruce’s days in Toronto were numbered.

“No,” Andrus said when asked if he’s spoken to Bruce. “I had a nice talk with him last Thursday and that was enough.”

Adding to Bruce’s precarious state in Toronto was the Argos signing of receiver Chad Lucas to the active roster Tuesday. Lucas played for Andrus with the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe in 2006.

Andrus did say had Bruce handled the situation differently, chances are he would have still remained in the team’s plans.

“I would say there would’ve been a good possibility because that’s the way a professional responds when they’re reprimanded,” Andrus said. “The fundamental reason (Bruce isn’t with Argos) is him and the reaction that he had with being disciplined.

“It all lies there.”

Bruce, 31, has been Toronto’s leading receiver the past three seasons and his absence would seem to hurt an offence that’s struggled this season. The Argos are 2-2 and tied with Hamilton for second in the East Division despite averaging 256 passing yards a game — third-worst in the CFL.

Without Bruce and injured veteran Andre Talbot, Toronto’s most experienced and productive receiver is sophomore Reggie McNeal, a converted quarterback with 58 catches and 837 receiving yards to his credit.

Toronto managed just 144 yards passing against Winnipeg and McNeal was the team’s leading receiver with four catches for 60 yards.

Despite that, Andrus doesn’t believe Toronto’s offence is better with Bruce in the lineup.

“I’m not so sure he makes our offensive team better,” Andrus said.

McNeal, though, disagreed.

“He’ll make any offence better,” McNeal said of Bruce. “He can play, he’s good.”

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