August 27, 2018

O’Leary: Carter lands in Toronto ready to earn his spot

Duron Carter saw the text from his new head coach land on his screen and immediately swiped to read it.

He and Marc Trestman haven’t spoken extensively, but the words on the screen told Carter everything he’ll need to know about what his time — however long it may be — in Toronto will be like.

“The first text message that he sent me was, ‘This is gonna be the hardest test of your career,’” said Carter, clad in Argos’ double blue for the first time, standing outside of his new team’s locker room.

“I said, ‘I’m ready to work, coach.’ That’s going to start our relationship on a good foot, me coming out here ready to work and prove myself.”

Trestman’s text could just as easily apply to him, his coaching staff and his players. Sitting at 3-6 and losing ground in the East Division, the Argos needed a spark. They’ll get that on the field with Carter, an all-star receiver and one of the league’s elite playmakers, but they’ll have to try to harness a personality that in stops in Saskatchewan and Montreal proved to be impossible to rein in.

Carter was released by the Roughriders on Aug. 11, bringing a colourful, statistically-rewarding 25-game run in Saskatchewan that was peppered with controversy to an abrupt end. The Argos are his third CFL team since he came to Montreal in 2013. In his previous two stops, the extracurriculars — conflict with teammates, arguing with coaches, Twitter spats with fans and team alumni, etc. — eventually outweighed the highlight reel plays he made both as a receiver and a defensive back.


» O’Leary: Timing is right for Argos, Carter
» Analysis: Toronto the right fit for Carter says Sanchez
» Watch: Teammates willing to give Carter his shot in Toronto
» Argos officially land Carter


“I think getting fired would make anybody examine how they are at their job,” he said of his departure from Saskatchewan.

“For me it’s all just a learning process. I’m 27 and still getting older. I hope to play until i’m about 47. I just want to get better, being a better person, being a better player and I hope that leads to getting championships. Hopefully this can be a spot for me.”

That will be up to Carter, according to Trestman.

“I think it’s going to be hard for him because I don’t know that he’s ever been in this environment,” the coach said.

“That’s no disrespect to any other environment. We don’t disrespect anybody else’s environments. There’s a lifestyle in our locker room that we’re working very hard to maintain. We have a new team too. So we’re still working on trying to create that right now. We’ve turned over 50 per cent (of the roster from last year).

“This is an evolving, transformational process for every coach, every player, any time a new player walks into the room and it’s going to be that way with Duron like it is for anyone else.

“The thing we have in our locker room is a bunch of guys that get excited when new guys come in. They want to help them along. I think that’s not necessarily unique but something I’m proud of, particularly with the veterans we have in our locker room.”

Trestman said he was very direct with Carter and he levelled with the reporters in front of him on Monday afternoon. He doesn’t know what Carter will bring to this team yet. He ruled him out of the upcoming pair of games against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, affording him some time to adapt to his new surrounding. If he gets on the field for the Argos’ next game, it would be Sept. 22 against Saskatchewan.

There are some familiar faces in that Argos’ locker room that happily greeted Carter today. Linebacker Bear Woods and receiver S.J. Green were teammates with him in Montreal and lobbied for him over the last week to join the team. Argos’ GM Jim Popp was in charge in Montreal when the Als released Carter late in the 2016 season. Popp had coached the Als for the majority of that season, then moved Jacques Chapdelaine into the head coaching role. Back in his role as GM, Popp was let go by the organization on Nov. 7, 2016.

“I think any time someone gets a new start it’s a clean slate. I don’t know why we would take an approach any differently. It’s a clean slate and that’s how you do things,” Popp said.


“That’s with any player, it’s not just Duron. You go from there.”

“I spoke with him this morning and I told him straight up, we work here. Everybody puts in work here and it shows that we all love the game of football,” Woods said.

“Myself and S.J. were with him in Montreal. There’s a trust factor already when he walks into this locker room and especially with Jim Popp as well. I just told him like I’m telling y’all now that I’m excited for Duron Carter the person to experience this culture that Trestman establishes for us.”

Green, a quiet and hardworking vet who has put the team first his entire career, wants to see Carter do the same and not worry about what the outside world thinks.

“Duron isn’t here for the people,” Green said. “I hope he’s here for himself and to better himself and grow as a person. Ultimately that’s what we’re here for.

“Living in today’s world, worrying about what people think, in my opinion is a waste of time. If he’s worried about what people think then we’re all wasting our time.”

It’ll take some time, but Carter will get his shot with the Argos. He could provide a huge boost to a team that needs it, if he can find a place in an environment that’s about the collective and not the individual. Based on how things went for him in Montreal and Saskatchewan, this won’t be easy.

“We have structure here and I’m not sure what structure is in place Saskatchewan or any other teams he’s been a part of,” Green said.

“In Montreal we didn’t have that. We didn’t have that structure from the top down and here we do.

“With that being said I feel like this is something new for him that can help him continue to grow and elevate as a person.”