MISSISSAUGA – Football can be a tough business, and no one knows that better than Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich.
On Tuesday afternoon outside of team facilities at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus, Milanovich met with reporters to provide an update regarding his team’s current injury situation and address the release of veteran linebacker Brandon Isaac, who had been named the Argonauts’ defensive captain prior to the beginning of the 2013 season.
“I’m very appreciative of what he has done for this team,” began Milanovich. “It was a decision that was made by the coaching staff that we think gives us a chance to be a little better at that position.”
Isaac, 28, is the latest departure from an Argonauts defence that has struggled to develop an identity thus far in 2013.
The four-year CFL veteran appeared in 17 games with the Argos in 2012, registering 43 tackles, four sacks and three fumble recoveries.
In four games this season, Isaac tallied 16 tackles and one sack.
Entering the 2013 campaign, Isaac, along with fellow linebackers Robert McCune and Marcus Ball, were expected to anchor the Argonauts’ defensive unit following a hectic off-season that perpetuated a great deal of change on the defensive side of the football.
In terms of reasoning for Isaac’s release, Milanovich offered little insight, but did provide some background information regarding who may fill Isaac’s position in the Argonauts’ defensive system.
“I’m not going to get into… this is the same thing we went through last year. I’m not going to get into the reasons why and step on Brandon (Isaac),” explained Milanovich. “(Joshua) Gatlin has a chance there. Jamie Robinson has a chance there, and the possibility of some new guys coming in.”
However, Milanovich is no stranger to controversial decisions.
Struggling to find consistency on the offensive side of the football a year ago, Milanovich released starting running back Cory Boyd, a move that sent shockwaves throughout the CFL. At the time of his release, Boyd was the league’s leading rusher.
Most recently, Milanovich cut ties with veteran defensive tackle Kevin Huntley as part of the Argonauts’ final training camp cuts.
Earlier in the off-season, the Double Blue released longtime Argonaut defensive end Ronald Flemons, who had spent seven seasons with the club.
The Argonauts second-year head coach affirms that the personnel changes were necessary and will only help to improve the team in the long run.
“Sometimes you have to make hard choices because you think someone can do the job a little better,” said Milanovich. “At the end of the day, you have to make decisions that you think will help your team.”
Meanwhile, the Argos also announced Tuesday that running back Chad Kackert has been placed on the team’s 1-game injured list.
“Chad (Kackert) is going to be a little bit longer. We’re expecting 4-6 weeks as an estimate,” said Milanovich.
In Kackert’s absence, the Argonauts have signed former Montreal Alouette running back Chris Jennings. In 2012, Jennings filled in admirably for incumbent starter Brandon Whitaker, who was recovering from a torn ACL.
In seven games in 2012, Jennings rushed for 318 yards and one touchdown.
With Kackert out of the line-up for the foreseeable future and Jennings adjusting to his new surroundings, rookie running back Curtis Steele appears to have an inside track to starting the Argonauts’ upcoming game against the B.C. Lions next week at Rogers Centre.
“Right now, we’re looking at Curtis (Steele),” stated Milanovich. “He had a great pre-season and we have a lot of confidence in him. We’ve been trying to prepare him for this because you never know. When you’re the backup tailback, anything can happen. Something can happen to Kack so he’s really been working hard with coach Steve McAdoo and getting himself mentally prepared.”
As for quarterback Ricky Ray, the Argonauts veteran pivot is currently listed as day-to-day and was seen wearing a left knee brace on Tuesday afternoon.
“Ricky is day-to-day, but he is significantly better than he was a year ago,” said Milanovich. “He is going to workout tomorrow. It’ll probably be a later in the week decision. We’ll probably try to be conservative with him and it’s not nearly the severity it was a year ago.”
Last season, Ray was forced out of action for five weeks while nursing a left MCL strain.
Ray currently leads the CFL with 1,203 yards passing and boasts a stellar completion percentage of 75.4 percent.
Milanovich is optimistic that Ray will be able to suit against B.C., however, in the case that the Argonauts offensive captain cannot play, Milanovich says he is confident that both of his young quarterbacks will be able to get the job done.
“If Ricky is 100 percent healthy, he’ll play,” said Milanovich. “If Ricky is not able to go, one of these young guys has the chance to prove himself. “I think they’re both doing a fantastic job, both working hard at it, and studying. They’ve both been in games now, which is a good thing.”
The Boatmen have also announced the signings of defensive backs Ricardo Colclough and Hugo Lopez, as well as the release of defensive lineman Nekos Brown and 2013 sixth round draft selection Michael Di Domenico.