Argos preparing for next season

It’s not where Jim Barker wanted his team to be but the Toronto coach is trying to make the best of his predicament.

Toronto Argonauts quarterback Steven Jyles fires a pass as he is rushed by Montreal Alouettes defensive end John Bowman during second quarter CFL football action in Montreal.

Toronto Argonauts quarterback Steven Jyles fires a pass as he is rushed by Montreal Alouettes defensive end John Bowman during second quarter CFL football action in Montreal.

It’s not where Jim Barker wanted his team to be but the Toronto coach is trying to make the best of his predicament.

Any playoff hopes the Argonauts (3-11) had are gone. So Barker and his coaching staff will be thinking about next season when they host the Calgary Stampeders (8-6) in Friday’s CFL game at Rogers Centre.

“This year ties into next year,” Barker said Thursday. “We have four games left, three of them at home.

“We get a chance to develop a winning attitude that we haven’t been able to get this year. We need to learn how to win again.”

Toronto hosts next year’s 100th Grey Cup game. The road to playing in the CFL championship starts now for the Argonauts.

“There is a tremendous amount of pressure on this club to be in that game,” said Barker, who was the CFL coach of the year last season after guiding the Argos to a 9-9 record.

“We are looking at . . . we have four weeks of training camp that the other teams don’t have going into our organization’s most important year. That’s how we are approaching it. We are going to look at some different schemes. We are going to be able to get some things on film other teams can’t and do things like that. We are looking at this as a launch into next year.”

With nothing to lose, the Argos are free to experiment with players and plays.

“We can play loose,” said Barker. “We can do things.

“As coach, we can try things maybe we wouldn’t try if we were in a situation where we were playing for a playoff spot. That’s the advantage.”

It’s exactly that sort of attitude that Calgary receiver Landan Talley said his team must prepare for as the Stampeders get ready to face the Argos and the 4-10 Saskatchewan Roughriders next week.

“These are teams that we should beat, but they are the most dangerous games we have this year,” said Talley. “These two teams are playing with nothing to lose.

“When you’ve got somebody playing with nothing to lose they’re mad dogs. They’re coming at you. These are going to be two very important games to us when it comes to continuing on our path.”

The Stampeders have a playoff spot wrapped up but are battling the B.C. Lions and Edmonton Eskimos for first place in the CFL West and a home playoff game. All three teams begin the weekend with 16 points.

The Stamps are coming off a last-play 33-31 loss to the Lions last week that knocked them out of first place. If the playoffs started today, Calgary would be third after losing the season series against both B.C. and Edmonton.

Calgary also wants some revenge for the Argos beating them 23-21 at McMahon Stadium in the first game of the year.

“We kind of have to flip the table on Toronto,” said quarterback Henry Burris. “We need to get that win back.

“We’ve got some tough road games, places where we haven’t had success. Saskatchewan is going to play as hard because they are playing for jobs.”

Toronto running back Cory Boyd caused a stir this week with some tweets he sent after the Argos lost 29-19 to the Montreal Alouettes on Monday.

Boyd seemed upset over getting just seven carries in the game.

“I think this off-season I’m gonna lose 20 (pounds) so I can play (wide receiver) … What do you think?” was one of Boyd’s tweets.

Boyd later said he was joking. Barker said any issues Boyd had have been handled.

“He had no idea of how people would take something he said one day, and another day, and another day and put them all together,” said Barker. “There was a little learning process that went on for Cory.

“It’s been dealt with. It’s not an issue. He’s a competitive guy. He wants to help the team win.”

One player who won’t be in the lineup this week is veteran receiver Maurice Mann, who the Argos obtained in a trade Wednesday from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

To make room for Mann the Argos released receiver Prechae Rodriguez, a former CFL rookie of the year. Barker said with the Argos having a short week, Mann hasn’t had enough practice time.