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CFL Report: August 23, 2007

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There's a quiet consensus in the CFL about Jim Popp, and it's basically this:





The man's a good general manager but a bad head coach.





You haven't heard this publicly much, if at all, because, well, it's just not good politics to draw attention for statements such as this one. If you're a CFLer, after all, you make your living in a league where bodies roam from town to town as rapidly as birds do — and you never know when you'll need Jim Popp.





Larry Smith, however, has let it be known privately around the CFL that Popp is more or less on trial as the head coach with the Montreal Alouettes.





Smith, president of the Alouettes, has told a bunch of folks on the hush-hush that the only reason he agreed to hire Popp as his head coach this season was that he was given an ultimatum. Popp told Smith after the Grey Cup game last season that he would stay on as GM only if he could double as head coach.





Smith didn't want to lose Popp's managerial experience, so he reluctantly agreed to let him coach. He will dump Popp at season's end, however, if the Als don't make it to, or come close to making it to, the Grey Cup game in November.







Robert Edwards, presumably tired of Popp and Popp's politics and presumably certain that he never again will play for Popp, didn't mind cutting up the GM/coach on a Toronto radio station this week.





The 32-year-old running back, who starred for the Als in leading them to the Grey Cup game last season, was released by Popp the other day and will line up in the backfield for the Argonauts when they visit the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg Friday night.





Edwards told interviewers Don Landry and Vic Rauter on The Fan 590 that he thinks Popp is biting off more than he can chew in Montreal.





"He's a good GM," Edwards said, "and he's a GM that's a coach. A lot of GMs were coaches before. He's basically a GM who turned into a coach ... He puts his GM's hat on before his coach's hat. It needs to be the other way around ... He don't know how to separate the two."





Edwards said he knew he was "fighting an uphill battle" against Popp after the GM/coach suggested in a newspaper story in the off-season that the player was aging.





Edwards said: "I didn't appreciate (Popp) saying those things in the paper. You don't say that about a professional player who's done a lot for your team. I think he went about it the wrong way."





CircleOct. 12on your calendar. That's when Edwards and the Argos next play the Als.







Robert Edwards is hoping he can come back to haunt Popp the way his kid brother has.





Terrence Edwards, 27, is playing dynamite football as a receiver with the Bombers. In fact, he has the highest receiving average in the CFL and is third in receiving yardage. He also has scored three touchdowns.





He's been a major contributor to the Bombers' success this season.





Popp deemed Edwards expendable before training camp this season. The Bombers snapped him up.







• One of Robert Edwards' closest friends in the CFL is another Toronto running back, John Avery.





When Edwards knew he wasn't hitting off with Popp, he called Avery to suggest that he tell the powers-that-be with the Argos that he'd like to play in Toronto.





Edwards said Avery agreed, no problem.





"Avery said, 'We'd be happy to have you,' " Edwards said. "He said, 'We can do things together the way Ricky (Williams) and I did last year.' We're pretty good friends and hopefully we'll work things out between us."





Maybe, but probably not.





Avery is on the Argos' injury list again this week. When he resumes his health, he'll either be cut or kept on the practice roster, sources tell us.





The Argos have another running back, Dominique Dorsey, and like him considerably better these days than Avery. With Edwards around, as well, Avery clearly is on the way out.





Truth is, Toronto head coach Michael Clemons doesn't dislike many people, but he's not all that wild about Avery.





Clemons has told folks that Avery has had plenty of chances to prove himself with the Argos since joining the team a few years ago. Clemons also has told folks that he's pretty well run out of patience with Avery.





That's probably why the Argos signed Edwards this week.







• When he was in his senior year at Stanford University, running back Kerry Carter told me he'd never play in the CFL, at least not until his NFL career had ended.





Well, Carter's NFL career is over. A Toronto native, Carter starred at Stanford only a few years ago and, after big billing, had only a couple of inconspicuous stints in the NFL.





He will join Als soon, once he recovers from a strained quad.





Carter's availability is one of the reasons Robert Edwards was discarded by Popp. Another was the emergence of Jarrett Payton as respectable running back. Payton, son of NFL legend Walter Payton, is getting rave reviews from Popp.







• As impressive as Payton has been, the consensus in the CFL is that the top running back this season has been a Canadian — Jesse Lumsden of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.





"There aren't too many backs in the league as good as our guy," Hamilton linebacker JoJuan Armour told The Hamilton Spectator's Ken Peters. "He (Payton) is a powerback but I don't think he is going to make too many guys miss.





"Jesse has the ability to make guys miss in the hole, he can run you over, he can run by you."







• Offensive lineman Steve Morley, given a $60,000 signing bonus by the Argos this season (and that's high by CFL standards), may play his first game in a Toronto Friday night in Winnipeg.





Morley has recovered from a groin tear he suffered shortly after joining the Argos in June. CFL insiders figure Morley is the best Canadian offensive lineman in the CFL.





Quarterback Michael Bishop also will be in Winnipeg with the Argos but will not play as he continues to recover from a broken right wrist that has already kept him out of four games.





He'll likely return for the Labour Day match against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats but it's doubtful he'll start.





The Argos will keep starting Rocky Butler at QB, for now.





As for second-stringer Mike McMahon, sources say he's asked to be traded or released. So far, the Argos aren't accommodating him. But they might when Bishop returns.







• Every week this season, I make my traditional picks against the spread at the bottom of this column. I went 1-0-1 last week and am 20-9-1 on the season.





Week 9:



FRIDAY — Toronto at Winnipeg:


The Blue Bombers are favoured by six points. The superior Bombers should be able to take advantage of home field and a banged-up Toronto team. TAKE WINNIPEG MINUS THE SIX POINTS.





SATURDAY—Hamilton at Montreal:


The Alouettes are favoured by eight points. This game will be closer than you might expect. The Tiger-Cats are improving. The Alouettes are not. TAKE THE TIGER-CATS PLUS THE EIGHT POINTS.



marty.york@metronews.ca

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