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'Papa Bear' Woods continues to set the bar at Argonauts camp

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Tough decisions await the Argos and rookie head coach Ryan Dinwiddie as camp winds down with the start of the regular season fast approaching.

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Two of the areas that will require the hardest calls will be along the defensive line and at linebacker.

The play of the Argos’ front seven was crucial when the franchise won a Grey Cup in 2017, a year when the team finished the regular season with a .500 record.
Much has changed in the intervening years, but the recipe for success might be similar, highlighted again by a stout defence capable of producing turnovers, along with an opportunistic offence.

One of the rare ties to the 2017 team is veteran middle linebacker Bear Woods.
Papa Bear is the resident football sage who takes no prisoners.

“I have huge respect for Bear as a person and as a player,’’ said Dinwiddie, who has known Woods from their days in Montreal. “He has great leadership. He’s flying around making plays. He’s excited to be here. You couldn’t ask for more from Bear, who has a great work ethic.”

Dinwiddie was asked about role definition for the 34-year-old Woods.

“We’ll see,’’ said the head coach. “All of those guys are competing … We’ll let the cards play out. At the end of camp, we’ll have to make some tough decisions.”

Woods embodies professionalism. No one works harder and no one respects the game more than the veteran defensive standout, who arrived late to camp following the birth of his fourth child.

During a Zoom call Sunday, Woods was asked to describe how he was feeling.

“I feel violent, I’m feeling excited, I’m feeling thankful and I’m feeling motivated,’’ he said.

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There should be a place for Woods on any team given his pedigree, productivity and presence, on and off the field.

The Argos went out in free agency to sign two of the very best linebackers in three-down football in Cameron Judge and Henoc Muamba. The fact that both are Canadian provides the Argos with all kinds of ratio flexibility and options.

But no one represents the Argos than Woods, who has bounced back from injury adversity.

“I do have a standard because I love football so much,’’ said Woods when asked if he had set any goals when he first arrived at Guelph. “I always hope there’s a consistency with my approach to the game, intangibles, skill, there’s a standard I carry and it has nothing to do with athletics.

“What I will share is that there’s no drop-off when I’m on the football field.”

‘Talent’ is a word Woods rarely, if ever, uses, knowing full well that it is something that is shown only when players step on the field and the bullets are flying for real.
What he likes about this group of players on the Double Blue is how each wants to improve.

“What impresses me is that the guys are thankful for this opportunity,’ Woods said. “They are grateful for this opportunity and that gratefulness is moulded by a mentality of, once again, violence. It’s going to be fun.”

Woods was with Muamba in Montreal. And he’s equally impressed at the way Judge conducts himself.

“They’re great linebackers, great teammates,’’ added Woods. “Killer Cam, as I like to call him, I’m having a great time with him on the field. It’s such a great opportunity to go get a Grey Cup with these guys. That’s the goal.”

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Matt Black and Marcus Ball were some of Woods’ previous teammates in Toronto who showed him what being an Argo entails.

In many ways, he’s now imparting those words of wisdom to the new group and leading by example.

It’s why Woods takes no offence when a reporter anoints him ‘Papa Bear.’

“I pride myself on discipline,’’ said Woods. “A father disciplines, a father sets the standard and, guess what, a father hands out whuppings. I’m just fine in being in that role. At the end of my career, I want people to say that guys set the standard.”

A two-time CFL all-star and a Grey Cup champion, there’s plenty of gas left in the tank.

“I’m at the point in my career where I just want to smack some people,” he said. “I want to let people know I am an Argo and whether you suit me up Week 1 or Week 12, you’re going to have to answer to me on the football field.

“At the end of the day, I’m going to hug or show some love to guys and spread that Argo way with individuals who are trying to find that identity with this team.

“Hopefully, I get enough field time to be in the right spot where I can share what it means to be an Argo.

“There are ups and downs with this organization because it’s part of the story. You can count us out, but go ahead. We’ll show you at the end of it. I really envision that in my mind.”

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ARBUCKLE EYEING LIVE REPS SOON

The good news is that Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie knows what he has in Nick Arbuckle, having worked with the quarterback in Calgary the past couple of seasons.

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The bad news is that Arbuckle continues to be hamstrung by a hamstring injury that is limiting his reps during training camp at the University of Guelph.

“I have to make sure he’s healthy,’’ said Dinwiddie on Sunday. “Rest is important, but mental reps are also important for him. Maybe (Monday) or the next day he’ll go back to live (reps).”

Arbuckle is one of three QBs vying for the starting role for rthe Boatmen’s season opener Aug. 7 in Calgary against the Stampeders.
Holdover McLeod Bethel-Thompson and former Alouette Antonio Pipkin are also in the mix.

As the No. 2 guy with the Stamps behind Bo Levi Mitchell in 2019, Arbuckle completed 73.1% of his 238 pass attempts for 2,103 yards, 11 TDs and five interceptions for a 106.5 efficiency rating. Mitchell finished with a 96.1 rating.

fzicarelli@postmedia.com

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