James Franklin focused on winning, not playoff elimination as Argos battle Lions

The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — James Franklin says taking over as No. 1 quarterback for the Toronto Argonauts late in a tough season isn't easy.

After spending much of the year sidelined with a hamstring injury, the 28-year-old Franklin will get his fourth start of 2019 and second in a row on Saturday when the Argos (2-11) take on the B.C. Lions (4-10).

In limited playing time over five games, he has completed 69-of-101 attempts (68.3 per cent) this year, amassing 790 passing yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions.

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"I'm excited. I'm always thankful to be playing. It's just not necessarily how I'd anticipated it," Franklin said Friday.

"For me, it feels like it's hard to come in and really 'rah-rah' the guys or say things without worrying (about them thinking) 'Hey, he wasn't playing with us through this whole struggle.' So I'm trying to find that happy medium."

Last week, Franklin was the pivot in charge when Toronto was trounced 41-16 by the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders. Playing again on Saturday will be a chance to do things differently, said Toronto coach Corey Chamblin.

"Here's another opportunity for him to start the game and see the game and correct some of the things he didn't do well last week," he said.

Chamblin's job has been complicated this season by having both Franklin and McLeod Bethel-Thompson vying for the title of No. 1 passer.

"I have two quarterbacks who are trying to make their start in this league as a starting quarterback," he said. "The biggest thing is trying to find a rhythm. We're waiting on those guys to get in a rhythm. They're both good quarterbacks and we just have to continue with their growth process and find a way to win."

The Argos also added Zach Collaros to the roster at the end of July in a trade with Saskatchewan, but he suffered a head injury in the season opener and hasn't played since. Chamblin said Collaros is "coming along."

Franklin knows there's competition for Toronto's quarterback job. He also knows that the CFL's trade deadline is coming up next week. But he's more concerned about what a move could mean for his family than what jersey he might be wearing come the end of the season.

"I have a six-week-old daughter and an 18-month-old daughter and my wife, we don't have family up here. So if (I get traded), who's going to help her out and move? That's really the only thing that's been weighing," he said.

At the forefront of Franklin's mind, however, is how the Argos can snap a two-game losing skid on Saturday. A loss would officially eliminate Toronto from playoff contention, but the quarterback said his focus isn't on post-season scenarios.

"I'm just thinking 'We need to win,' " he said. "I know, of course, that it'll be on a lot of guys' minds but for me, it's not really thinking about keeping our playoff hopes alive. It's about wanting to win to win."

Bethel-Thompson was the starter when the Argos last faced the Lions on July 6. B.C. won the game with a walk-off rouge when Argos returner Chris Rainey stepped out of bounds after catching a missed field goal.

Toronto will be a bit hungrier heading into Saturday's matchup because of how the last contest ended, Chamblin said.

"Each game there's something different when you play a team. That's one of those that you wish you had one more shot," he said. "But nevertheless, that's a past deal. We're on their turf now and we have to make sure it wasn't a fluke and just show up."



Saturday, B.C. Place

QUARTERBACK QUESTION: B.C.'s star pivot Mike Reilly was not at the final walk-through with his team on Friday. He was reportedly out with an illness but is still expected to start on Saturday.

POINT SPREAD: Toronto has allowed more points than any other team this year (429) while scoring the second fewest (256). Only the Ottawa Redblacks have less with 238.

TALE OF TWO DIVISIONS: All four of B.C.'s wins this season have come against East Division opponents. Toronto has not fared as well when facing the West, going 1-8 when crossing over.

GONE STREAKING: If the Lions beat the Argos, it will mark the first time since 2017 that the club has collected four victories in a row.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2019.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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