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Argonauts release running back Cory Boyd, the CFL’s leading rusher

After back-to-back 1,000+ yard rushing seasons and solid start to 2012, running back Cory Boyd was shockingly released by the Toronto Argonauts on Sunday. The surprising move came with the Argos off to a 3-3 start, tied for first in the East Division, and with Boyd leading CFL in rushing yards with 447.

Just after noon on Sunday, Boyd, an avid Twitter user, Cory Boyd. (The Canadian Press)posted an ominous photo of his Argos' locker without any comment. Minutes later the press release announcing his release came from the Argonauts.

"I would like to thank Cory for his many contribution to our club over the past few years," Argonauts general manager Jim Barker said in a statement. "Releasing a player mid-season is never an easy thing to do and this decision was not made overnight."

Boyd burst on to the CFL scene in 2010 when he ran for 1,359 yards as a rookie, the second-highest total in the league, and led the surprising Argonauts to a 9-9 record and a berth in the division finals.

But under Barker, the Argos' coach for his first two CFL seasons, he was often used sparingly despite his talent and impressive numbers. Even in 2011 with the team struggling, the relationship between Barker and Boyd seemed fractured, with Barker even refusing to give him credit for strong performances.

[ Photos: Former Argos running back Cory Boyd ]

That strain combined with the Argos' 2012 pass-focused offence under new coach Scott Milanovich and quarterback Ricky Ray perhaps led to Boyd's release. Boyd strength is as a straight-ahead runner, while the Argos appeared to want a pass-blocking and pass-catching running back.

"After evaluating our entire football team through the first third of the season, we felt this was one of the changes necessary to move our team forward. We believe a different style of play is needed at running back to heighten the success of our new offence," Barker said.

Boyd told Matthew Scianitti of the National Post that he spoke to Milanovich who told him he "wasn't playing hard enough."

The surprising nature of the move prompted some speculation about potential off-field issues. Boyd has faced off-field distractions during his time in Toronto. In 2010, he lost good friend and former teammate Kenny McKinley, a Denver Broncos wide receiver who committed suicide. But Boyd appeared to be a model citizen and there's little evidence to support any actual behaviour issues.

However, later Sunday afternoon former Argonauts teammate Rob Murphy chimed in with his thoughts. Murphy, a former offensive lineman who retired this season, played with Boyd for two seasons in Toronto and had this to say:

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That's a rather damning statement from an outspoken player not afraid to speak his mind. But CFL players with Boyd's skills are rare. Surely the Argos could have found a trading partner for the CFL's leading rusher and received something in return.

Don't expect him to remain out of work for long. The Blue Bombers, Eskimos and Roughriders all would appear to be possible destinations. The Bombers have three running backs on the injured list and have the worst offence in the CFL. The Eskimos lost Jerome Messam, last year's third-leading rusher to the NFL. The Riders are thin at RB, though Kory Sheets has filed in admirably.

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