Running back Terry Metcalf, who played out his option with the St. Louis Cardinals of the National Football League, has signed a multi-year contract with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, it was announced yesterday.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but Metcalf, 26, reportedly received a seven-year pact that could pay more than $250,000 a year in salary and bonuses.

An Argos official refused to discuss details of the contract, other than to say it was "a contract for life; it should be good for 10 or 11 years."

Metcalf said he was close to signing with the NFL's Baltimore Colts, but got the call from the Argonauts.

"I liked the front office (in Toronto)," Metcalf said. "They made me feel more comfortable than I did in St. Louis. There the owner (Bill Bidwill) would never talk to me. In the five years I was in St. Louis I could count on one hand the times he talked to me.

"There was always conflict . . . between players and front office, coaches and front office, coaches and players. To have a winning attitude in an organization you can't have that faction all the time."

Metcalf said he was also fed up with the hassles from what he called fickle St. Louis fans."I was out to do my best, and when I did fumble they acted like I did it on purpose.

They booed me on the field, they booed me off the field. And if I scored a touchdown, they were ready to 'Yea, yea.' I couldn't understand that. If they're going to boo me, boo me all the time. Don't change in the middle of the stream.

"They knock me for fumbling. Heck Walter Payton fumbles. O.J. Simpson fumbles. I fumbled more when we won two division titles and they didn't jeer me then. I fumbled 10 times lastseason and recovered six. They jumped on my back like I did it 350 times."