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In addition, after winning three of its first four games, Toronto, which has not won the Grey Cup since 1952, has become one of the worst teams in the league. Including last Sunday's 31-15 loss to the British Columbia Lions, Toronto has lost ten of its last 11 games.
The crux of the Argos' offensive problems is the line, with its almost weekly turnover in personnel. In contrast to the NFL, whose rosters barely change after the final cut, Canadian teams replace players in gang-load lots throughout the season by way of an evaluation procedure called the five-day trial. Toronto may lead the league in five-day-trial players, some of whom have gone through the process several times. The season's leader among the Argos' trial players is Phil Rogers, a running back who filled in for Metcalf against Winnipeg when he was idled by his knee injury. In that game Rogers gained seven yards on four carries, caught three passes for nine yards and lost a fumble on the Winnipeg eight-yard line as Toronto lost 19-14. Rogers was cut shortly thereafter, for the third time this season.
"I couldn't tell you how many teammates I've had this year," Metcalf says. "That's made it harder, too, because you just get to know a guy and suddenly he's cut or released, or whatever, and they bring in another guy and you have to learn all about him."
Along with many of his new teammates, Metcalf is now playing for his second Argo coach. Leo Cahill, the last coach to take Toronto to the Grey Cup—in 1971, when the Argos' quarterback was Joe Theismann—was fired in 1972, rehired last year and then fired again on Sept. 10 and replaced by Bud Riley, the club's offensive backfield coach.
"It was the first time that ever happened to me," Metcalf says, "and it wasn't so much the shock—everyone had kind of sensed it two or three games before it happened—but the entire change everyone had to go through right away. We had to change systems and we had a game coming up in five days."
Metcalf doesn't mention one other problem—the occasionally ridiculous, sometimes baffling, use of his talents in the Argonauts' game plan. In a recent loss to Ottawa, for example, Metcalf ran the ball several times into the middle of the line, where the congestion understandably stymied his moves, speed and acceleration. On many passing plays, Metcalf—never noted for his blocking skills—stayed in the backfield as a blocker for Quarterback Chuck Ealey. On a couple of plays, though, Metcalf showed a flash of his NFL brilliance. Once he hit up inside right tackle on a quick burst for nine yards, and later he cut back over right guard, vaulted a tackier and got nine more yards.
Metcalf and his wife Celeste, whom he married on May 7, live in a beautiful high-rise apartment building on the Lake Ontario waterfront, which is within biking distance of Exhibition Stadium where the Argos practice and play their home games.
One night recently, he talked about the move to Canada and his first CFL season. "Yeah, it's been disappointing," he said. "I wanted to do well up here and I haven't. We haven't been winning, either. All these things have made it tough. This is the worst season I've had since I've become a pro, but if it wasn't for our record, everything would be all right. The people up here have treated me very well. Living up here is all right. The cost of living is a little higher, but Toronto is a nice, clean city and I like it very much.
"The fans have been good, too. Even now that we are losing, they don't jump on me. They get on management [to the point of even booing attendance announcements]. They realize that I could be the best runner in the world but I need an offensive line."
Would Metcalf do it all over again? "Under the circumstances I left the NFL—yeah, I think so," he said. "My lawyer and I thought the owners there were trying to set a pay scale, and I think they were using me. I was supposedly the No. 1 athlete playing out his option, and I guess they figured if they didn't pay me, anyone who came after me couldn't get any real big money.