Quarterback Zach Collaros returns to Toronto Argonauts in deal with Roughriders

TORONTO — Argonauts quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson didn’t mince words when asked what Toronto’s 0-6 start to the season has been like.

“It’s horrible. Losing is horrible. It’s been very tough,” said Bethel-Thompson on Wednesday morning.

Thirty minutes later, Argos general manager Jim Popp did something about the team’s six-game losing skid, getting QB Zach Collaros from the Saskatchewan Roughriders for a fourth-round draft pick.

The trade returns the 30-year-old Collaros to the team he started his CFL career with seven years ago when he backed up Ricky Ray as the Argonauts went on to win the 2012 Grey Cup.

“It’s a player that’s very familiar with this organization. He’s obviously a vet that has won,” said Popp. “One thing is that I always want is to have players that want to be on a team. I know he enjoyed his time here before and he’s expressed it in different ways in the past that he’d love to come back.”

Collaros has been out of action since a controversial hit in Week 1 of the season. He was placed on the six-game injured list on June 17 after taking a hit from Hamilton’s Simoni Lawrence on the third offensive play of a 23-17 loss to the host Tiger-Cats on June 13. The play earned Lawrence a two-game suspension, a ban that was later upheld by an arbitrator after an appeal.

Popp wasn’t sure when Collaros would officially be cleared to play. Bethel-Thompson will start on Thursday night as Toronto hosts the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (5-1-0) and then the Argonauts have a bye week, giving Collaros more time to recover and get familiar with his new playbook.

“It’ll be a process,” said Popp. “He’s still got to get out and start practising. He hasn’t practised at all since he was injured. He’s still on an injured list. He’ll slowly make his way in to practice, learning our system.

“How many weeks away is he from playing? Don’t have 100 per cent knowledge of that until we get him here. It’s going to be a day-to-day process. We’ll find out.”

When asked about Collaros’s health, Roughriders GM Jeremy O’Day said that to the best of his knowledge he doesn’t have any more symptoms of a concussion and that he’s passed his baseline test.

“We were at the point where he was getting close but he was still in the six-game (injured list),” O’Day told reporters in Regina. “Our first, initial response to his injury was, ‘Let’s worry about his health and get him back.’ Zach was very adamant that he wanted to continue playing days after, weeks after and even now he wants to continue playing.”

O’Day said the Argos first contacted him about Collaros about a week ago.

Collaros adds experience to an Argo quarterback corps that consists of Bethel-Thompson, Michael O’Connor, Dakota Prukop and the injured James Franklin. Ray, who Collaros backed up in 2012 and 2013, retired before this season after a serious neck injury.

“What I want to see from our entire team is some consistency, not turn the ball over, protect the ball,” said Popp. “Let’s just have some real consistency and put some points on the board. Just like anything, the defence plays their part and will continue to improve.

“We’ve shot ourselves in the foot a lot this year. We’ve been self-destructive and we’ve got to clean that up.”

The Argonauts have the most two-and-outs in the CFL (44), the most interceptions (14), the most fumbles (7), the most turnovers overall (26) and, not surprisingly, Toronto’s opponents have scored 73 points off of turnovers, 28 more than the next worst team in the league.

“We’re a good team just playing badly,” said Bethel-Thompson. “The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. You change some stuff but you prepare how you prepare. There’s things that we’re going to do differently and there’s mental aspects we need to do differently.”

Collaros spent the next four seasons in Hamilton where he was the Ticats’ choice for the league’s Most Outstanding Player award in both 2014 and 2015. He was traded to Saskatchewan in 2018.

Over his eight-year career, Collaros has thrown for 16,758 yards and 92 touchdowns while rushing for 952 yards and eight touchdowns.

The 2020 fourth-round pick Toronto sent to Saskatchewan for Collaros can turn into a second-round pick selection depending on playing time and contract extension clauses.


Thursday, BMO Field

BACK IN BLUE — Winnipeg wide receiver Chris Matthews will be active for the game after missing four of the Blue Bombers six games this season with a finger injury. That injury was unrelated to a stab wound he sustained last week at a downtown Winnipeg nightclub.

ROAD WARRIORS — The Argonauts are back in Toronto for the first time after a 17-day road trip, unusually long by CFL standards. Head coach Corey Chamblin said that it was helpful for the team to be in close quarters for nearly three weeks since it helped build chemistry, something the first-year coach and his staff have been pushing for all season.

GRASS IS GREEN-ER — Toronto wide receiver S.J. Green needs just 45 yards to pass Hal Patterson (9,473) to reach the CFL’s all-time Top 25.

GOLDEN HORSESHOE — Rather than returning home to Winnipeg between their games in Hamilton and Toronto, the Blue Bombers spent the week practising in nearby Guelph, Ont.

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