SIMMONS: Heartbroken Chad Kelly opens up about 'nightmare' of Argos' stunning East final loss

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BURLINGTON — When he walked off the field early Saturday evening, Chad Kelly was so disoriented he wasn’t sure where to turn.

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He couldn’t figure out what he felt or exactly how he felt. He just knew he wasn’t right, it wasn’t right, after the still stunning 38-17 loss to the Montreal Alouettes in the East final.

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“It felt like a nightmare, to be honest with you,” the Argos quarterback said on Wednesday evening in a heartfelt interview. “It felt so real. When I was walking off the field, my head didn’t feel good, my heart didn’t feel good, my stomach didn’t feel good.

“I had to go to the bathroom stall to make sure I was OK.”

He’s still not sure he’s OK. The past four days have been that kind of soul-searching. He hasn’t come to grips with everything that happened in the East-final defeat, why he isn’t in mid-week preparation for Sunday’s Grey Cup, how he will have to get up Thursday night in Niagara Falls and make a speech of some kind when he’s announced as the Most Outstanding Player in the Canadian Football League.

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He hasn’t yet watched the film of Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Alouettes. He’s not sure when he’ll be ready to watch it.

“At some point, I’m going to have to,” he said. “At this point, mentally …”

He stopped. He wasn’t ready.

“Within a month or two (I’ll watch it). It makes me sick (right now). It still makes me sick … “I’m still trying to get over the mistakes that were part of the game … I don’t want to look at the film. But at some point, I’m going to have to.”

How did it happen? How did the 16-2 Argos go from the most dominant team in the history of the Eastern Conference to not just a team that didn’t get to the Grey Cup but one that all but defeated itself in the process?

The problems didn’t start on Saturday for Kelly. They started weeks ago, when the Argos quarterbacks coach Mike Miller left the team due to personal illness. It wasn’t a big story at the time because Argos news just isn’t a big story very often any longer.

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Kelly was close with Miller. The two seemed to understand each other, worked so well together in the first half of the season.

When Kelly came off the field after throwing an early interception for a touchdown, the voice he needed to hear was Miller’s. Instead, nothing. No one to listen to or be told what to do from.

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The game, how he played, how they lost, how the Argos turned the ball over nine times, it’s not so much a blur for Kelly, but an unexplainable set of horrible circumstances.

He threw four interceptions and the Alouettes didn’t blitz once in the game. That by itself is so improbable.

“I threw four interceptions and was never sacked,” he said, wondering if that had ever happened before. Earlier this season, the Argos beat the Als and sacked Montreal quarterback Cody Fajardo seven times. Kelly wondered, too, if that had ever happened before. So many circumstances making so little sense to him.

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Since the loss, he’s talked with head coach Ryan Dinwiddie four times but he won’t share what it is they spoke about.

Dinwiddie is likely to be named Coach of the Year on Thursday night. He was coach of the year during the season, he wasn’t coach of the day on Saturday.

And since the loss, Kelly’s phone has blown up the way phones tend to in good times and bad. He ran into former Bills player, Steve Tasker, while in Buffalo. Tasker gave him a huge hug. He told him: “You had a phenomenal season.”

“When a guy like him gives you encouragement like that, it speaks to his character,” Kelly said.

And it spoke to Kelly, who needs support as he is still carrying the weight of the defeat around with him and will be for a while.

Next year, he becomes the highest paid player in the CFL. With the new contract comes a new kind of pressure, not necessarily the kind he felt on Saturday, but he knows those who will watch, will be watching him closely.

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He has already worked out twice in the four days since their season ended. He wouldn’t mind training camp opening up in a few weeks time, rather than six months from now. He has some rodeo cowboy in him — he’s been thrown from the bull for a large loss here, but he’s ready to climb back on and start winning again.

“I’ve moved on to next season,” said Kelly. “I’m ready to go.”

But first, he has some processing to do. About his game. About himself.

“I can only imagine what the fans were thinking from start to finish,” said Kelly. “Instead, they saw a regressing offence and a regressing quarterback.”

And the only winning the Argos will do on Grey Cup Week will come from the awards table on Thursday night.

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