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August 16, 2019

ARBUCKLE REMAINS AT THE HELM

The tune has stopped. And Nick Arbuckle is the one to emerge from among the three vying for the single seat in this week’s parlour game of musical chairs, quarterback edition.

“Oh, no,’’ replied Arbuckle, asked following Friday’s soggy walk-through if he’d harboured any niggling doubts about being ready to answer the call versus the Montreal Alouettes. “Not at all. We just kinda took it easy in practice yesterday, made sure I was ready to go.

“Actually, I feel really good. Just as good as last week.”

Firstly, there had, of course, been mounting hopes that Bo Levi Mitchell would finally be ready to return to active duty.

That rather optimistic option, however, lessened as the days moved along (Mitchell was placed once again on the six-game IR Friday).

Then when Arbuckle, who’s filled in so capably for the reigning CFL MOP over the past half dozen starts, turned into more of a spectator than participant during Thursday’s workout, nursing a lingering elbow issue, the possibility of third-stringer Montell Cozart being conscripted to start his first-ever meaningful CFL game seemed suddenly very real.

The swirl of speculation and conjecture cleared up Friday morning when the Calgary Stampeders’ released their depth chart for the 5 p.m. pre-bye-week kick-off.

“Right now, (Arbuckle)’s probable the most ready,” confirmed boss Dave Dickenson. “It’s a tough match-up. Montreal does a lot of good things on defence, seem to be really dialled in what they’re trying to accomplish. Good tacklers, opportunistic, make a lot of plays.

“So whoever’s going to play quarterback’s got their work out out for them. Hopefully Nick finds his rhythm and has a good game.

“Unfortunately with Bo we’re just going to have to put him back on the shelf and see what happens as the season goes on. I’m just going to quit putting a time schedule in it, let him try and find the right balance.”

The uncertainly of who, when the smoke cleared, actually be pulling the trigger against the Als did pose its share of challenges.

“Each guy’s different so you’re going to plan, call the game, differently for each of them,’’ acknowledged Stamp quarterbacking coach Ryan Dinwiddie. “Different preparations for different schemes.

“We feel good about Nick but Montell’s a bit of an unknown, obviously.

“We try to keep things as friendly as possible for all three but obviously our approach varies whether it’s Nick or Montell.

“With Montell, we’d have to get on the edge, let him stress the edge, get him some runs from the quarterback position.

“But he’s got plenty of arm strength and athletic ability. We’ve just got to get him up to speed mentally to where the others are at.

“It’s disappointing for Bo personally, and for the organization. These have been six rough weeks for him, watching Nick play. Everybody’s competitive, they want to go out and contribute.

“At the same time, you’ve got to look long-term, at the big picture, right? We can’t rush him, have him go in there and then be out for the season.

“I think he’ll be back in the near future.”

For the 25-year old Arbuckle, this provides at least one more opportunity to showcase himself and solidify his No.1 capabilities.

“We have a game tomorrow and after that we have a long bye week” – not playing again until the Eskimos on Monday, Sept. 2 – “so we’ll see how Bo can heal up and see if he’s ready for Labour Day,’’ he reckoned.

“Right now we’re just trying to get through Montreal, do our best to get a win and then see how everybody’s body heals up during the 10, 11 days we have off.

“I thought this was an amazing opportunity. I talked to my dad about it. I talked to my agent about it. There’s no better opportunity to come in and learn from the best quarterback in the league. No better organization, no better quarterback, no better coach, to learn from.”

He’ll be looking to go 5-2 as the starter and help the Stamps keep pace with the West Division-pacesetting Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who dusted the B.C. Lions on Thursday.

“It feel it’s definitely just a mindset,’’ Arbuckle said. “A mindset that comes down from management to the coaching staff to the locker room that we’ve just got to know whoever’s on the field can get the job done.

“We just have to execute, keep ourselves in the game and then hopefully at the end we have the chance to win it with a drive.

“We’ve been successful and we’ve had some mistakes where we haven’t been able to finish the way we wanted to.

“But we’re getting better every week.”