MISSISSAUGA – With Saturday’s definitive roster deadline fast approaching, the Toronto Argonauts’ brass made an ostensibly counter-intuitive decision to add two new, albeit familiar, faces to training camp on Friday.
Canadian wide receiver Danny Desriveaux, who played under head coach Scott Milanovich in Montreal, and important linebacker Robert McCune, one of defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones’ former charges in Calgary, will close two holes that the Argos were incapable of plugging from within.
Desriveaux will fill the void left by non-import wideouts Djems Kouame, Julian Feoli-Gudino and Quincy Hurst, who are all nursing injuries. McCune is being fitted at middle linebacker, where, depth is a concern following incumbent Anthony Cannon’s release, and Jason Pottinger is also banged up.
“He’s an outstanding individual,” Jones said of McCune, who was cut loose last week by the Stampeders. “He’s a high-character guy, works extremely hard, both on and off the field, and I like the fit that he brings.”
Teammates and coaches call him “Hammer” and it is not hard to discern why. McCune is a 6-foot, 245-pound physical specimen, with the kind of bulging muscles normally reserved for professional bodybuilders. The 33-year-old was drafted by the Washington Redskins in 2005 out of Louisville, and also spent time with the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens before joining Calgary in 2010.
Transitioning from one system in Calgary to another in Toronto, at the tail end of training camp to boot, should be made considerably more palatable by McCune’s experience with Jones.
“I know what he expects,” said McCune, who recorded 90 tackles and eight sacks over two seasons with the Stampeders. “I know what type of football he likes to play. It’s pretty good, some of the calls are coming back to me as I hear them and see them.”
While McCune is basically impossible to miss, Desriveaux naturally blends into his surroundings. The 30-year-old, 5-foot-9 native of Laval, Que. was released in February after five seasons with the Alouettes, where he played mainly a bit part. In 2008, he made his most significant contribution to Montreal’s offence, recording 29 receptions for 287 yards and one touchdown.
Desriveaux will need to acclimate quickly, as the regular season opener is scheduled for June 30 in Edmonton. But, having been previously tutored by coach Milanovich will help to expedite the adjustment process.
“I think it is probably one of the main reasons why I’m here,” said Desriveaux, a graduate of Richmond University in Virginia. “They wanted someone that could be ready quickly, that knows the ropes, that knows the ins and outs, that can come in and help out with the younger guys.”
Both McCune and Desriveaux have seen countless hopefuls come and go in the cutthroat universe that is professional football. Though somewhat taken aback, and disappointed, by their respective releases, the pair know it is the nature of this game.
Toronto presents a new opportunity, though, one they are grateful for and planning to take advantage of.
“I’m here to help this football team win,” McCune said.
“I’m just ready to do whatever they need me to do here to help,” Desriveaux added.
The Argos’ roster was trimmed to 57 following the release of 16 players earlier in the week. By 10:00 p.m. ET Saturday, that number must be reduced to 46, excluding seven practice squad spots and those kept on injured reserve.
While a collection of on-the-bubble players were using Friday’s practice as a last-ditch effort to stake their claim on a roster spot, McCune and Desriveaux were busy trying to recalibrate, knowing they are really just getting started.
“It’s definitely a weird feeling,” Desriveaux said. “I feel a little lost; I feel like a rookie again. But I’m just happy to be on the field and back at it.”