MONTREAL â€” Darian Durant wants to put Saskatchewan behind him and get started on his new role as quarterback of the Montreal Alouettes.
Durant donned his new Alouettes jersey with his old number four for the first time at a news conference on Friday, a day after inking a three-year contract reportedly worth $1.2 million.
“I’ll do everything in my power to make sure we get back to winning ways, and that’s not just the playoffs,” said Durant. “It’s all about Grey Cups.
“That’s my focus. And starting from this day, 100 per cent of my time and energy will go into that.”
The 34-year-old Durant did not want to talk about Saskatchewan, where he spent the first 11 years of his career and where he led the Roughriders to a Grey Cup victory on home turf in 2013.
A potential free agent in February, Riders coach and general manager Chris Jones traded his rights to the Alouettes on Jan. 13 after failing to reach agreement on a new contract. The move left Saskatchewan without a proven starting quarterback, but Jones didn’t want to commit to a long term deal at top salary to an aging quarterback who has had injury trouble the last three seasons.
When asked why Saskatchewan let him go, Durant said: “I have no idea. I think everything I showed and did showed that I wanted to finish my career there.
“I guess it comes down to want. This organization wanted me here, wanted me to lead and be a part of everything going forward, and they wanted to go in a different direction over in Saskatchewan. I don’t want to spend much more time talking about Saskatchewan. I’m an Alouette now. I’m very happy to be one. I had a great time in Saskatchewan the last 11 years but it’s time to turn the page on that chapter and get started here.”
The Alouettes first-year GM Kavis Reed felt Durant’s injuries were an acceptable risk in order to bring a proven veteran into a position that has seen a dozen quarterbacks take snaps since the CFL’s all-time passing leader and current Alouettes offensive co-ordinator Anthony Calvillo retired after the 2013 season.
Reed said giving Durant a three-year deal allows time to develop younger pivots like Vernon Adams, who started and won the final three games of the Alouettes’ otherwise bleak 2016 campaign.
“It was an important number simply because we wanted stability and also enough time for us to make certain that we have the data to see whether the guys behind him are ready,” said Reed. “We feel confident that Darian will be here for the long term and confident that we will enjoy some success with him.
“It’s a tremendous step for the organization.”
Durant, who has missed at least two games per year since 2010, does not feel he has become injury prone but he recognizes the importance of having a strong backup. And Adams has stated his intention to try to keep the starting job despite Durant’s arrival.
“I’ve been injured in the past and I know that it takes more than one good quarterback to win a championship so I’m here to lend a helping hand to whoever the guys are behind me,” said Durant. “It’ll take all of us to get the job done.
“It’s about winning as a team. It’s not going to be just about me.”
But there will be expectations from fans who have seen the once-powerful Alouettes finish out of the playoffs two years in a row.
“I can just come in and be the leader that I’ve always been,” he said. “When you put myself in with veterans like S.J. (Green) and Nik Lewis and especially that defensive core, I’m just a piece of the puzzle.”
Reed got to know Durant when he served as an assistant coach in Regina in 2009. Coach Jacques Chapdelaine worked with him as the Riders’ offensive co-ordinator in 2015.
Durant described a Chapdelaine offence as “kind of like basketball on grass.
“He gives you many options across the field and if I pick and chose right and deliver the ball with accuracy, then we can be something to be reckoned with.”
While he regrets missing out on the opening of a new stadium in Regina this season, he looks forward to playing in the close confines of Percival Molson Stadium, which the Alouettes hope will be full again with a veteran quarterback in place.
“A lot of games are lost by the visiting team coming into this place,” he said. “So my plan is to give the fans something to cheer about, put some points on the board. That helps the defence out and leads to wins.”
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated Durant has gone five seasons missing at least a game, when in fact it has been six.