Posted by: Jeremy | July 28, 2009

Andrus not backing down

Chances of Bruce remaining an Argo? Not very good, according to his coach

Chances of Bruce remaining an Argo? Not very good, according to his coach

If there’s a resolution to the Bart Andrus-Arland Bruce III feud, don’t expect the Argos’ head coach to go out of his way to find it anytime soon. The Bruce saga entered day five Tuesday, and Andrus’ comments after practice left little doubt the star receiver won’t be back in double blue.

“He’s not here today because I don’t want him here today,” Andrus said Tuesday when asked if Bruce’s absence at practice was due to a potential trade. “We’re looking at a lot of different ways to bring this to a resolution, but right now I don’t want him to be around the team.”

Bruce, of course, was left in Toronto for the team’s trip to Winnipeg last Thursday for conduct Andrus deemed unprofessional – he picked up a pair of penalties for a bizarre tribute to Michael Jackson in Hamilton on Canada Day, was late for team meetings and reportedly left his playbook on the team plane. If his behaviour was unprofessional before the suspension, he was downright immature in light of the penalty, saying the coach can “take that back to NFL Europe or wherever he was coming from” and levelling criticism at quarterback Kerry Joseph. To no one’s surprise, Andrus doesn’t seem to have warmed up to Bruce since the comments and isn’t about to take any responsibility for the dispute.

“It’s him,” Andrus said after practice. “The fundamental reason is him and his reaction to being disciplined. It’s the way he’s handled everything from the time he was told he was suspended for the game.”

Joseph, who was tight-lipped last week in light of Bruce’s criticism, wasn’t about to stir the pot Tuesday either. The quarterback didn’t have anything to say about whether or not he’d welcome his top receiver back, instead insisting the decision is out of his hands.

“It’s not my decision,” Joseph said. “Arland is a great football player, but that’s a decision coach made and that’s something between the two of them.”

Joseph did, however, back his coach’s stance on the issue.

“It’s a privilege to play this game,” he said after practice. “As players, you have to value the opportunity. Coach is running this ship and the guys in this locker room, regardless of who they are, are going to follow him. He lays the rules down and we have to follow them.”

Bruce was the Argos’ top receiver through the first three games this season, catching 14 passes for 199 yards.  Reggie McNeal caught four passes in last Friday’s win over Winnipeg and will be called upon to continue to carry the load in Bruce’s absence. The second-year Argo said he’s willing to step up, but sounded as though he’d prefer to have his teammate back in the mix.

“I was looking forward to him being here today,” McNeal said Tuesday, “but at the end of the day it’s not my call. It is what it is.”

Toronto doesn’t have much in the way of options – with CFL contracts non-guaranteed, teams are more likely to wait for the Argos to release Bruce rather than picking up his reported $190,000 contract in a trade. Even with a decision on Bruce’s status looming, Andrus isn’t about to let the situation get in the way of the task at hand.

“My objective right now is to prepare to play and win against Winnipeg this weekend,” the coach said. “That’s where my focus is, and in getting players here that can help us in every way both on and off the field.”


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