A two-year stint with the Edmonton Eskimos now in the books, Matt Carter hopes to launch a new and prosperous phase of his Canadian Football League career in the nation’s capital.
The 27-year-old West Kelowna product, who signed in the off-season with the expansion RedBlacks, is about to take up residence in Ottawa for the start of the franchise’s first ever training camp on May 30.
“The city is absolutely buzzing, and there’s a lot of hype and excitement surrounding the club,” said Carter. “The (RedBlacks) have secure owners, and while the team is just new to the league, the fans of Ottawa are really embracing us. It’s an exciting situation to be a part of.”
A graduate of the Mt. Boucherie high school football program, Carter is about to enter his sixth CFL season.
After spending his first three years in Hamilton, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver played the last two seasons in Edmonton.
And when both his field time and overall production with the Eskimos fell off considerably in 2013, Carter decided the time was right to explore his free agency options.
“I enjoyed my time in Edmonton, I appreciated what they did for me, but I just thought it was time for a change,” said Carter, who has 52 catches for 738 yards and four touchdowns during his career. “Just the situation the (Eskimos) were in, I played a lot less snaps, and any time that happens it makes you hungry for a positive change. I’m not going (to Ottawa) expecting anything, it’ll have to be earned and there will be a lot of competition. I’m fully at peace with the situation and ready to go in there and make a contribution.”
Carter is joining some familiar faces in Ottawa, including offensive coordinator Mike Gibson, receivers coach Travis Moore and quarterbacks coach Marcus Crandell, all of whom he has worked with during previous stops in the CFL.
And with veteran quarterbacks Henry Burris and Kevin Glenn, and up-and-comer Thomas Demarco at the controls for the RedBlacks, Carter can’t think of a much more attractive scenario for his seventh year in the league.
“We’re incredibly deep at quarterback and, of course, that’s such a key part of any ball club,” said Carter, who signed a one-year deal with Ottawa, with the team holding an option for a second. “I worked with Kevin for three years in Hamilton, I worked with Hank in April at mini-camp, and Demarco is a good young quarterback. It’ll be good to get out there and start working with those guys.”
From the RedBlacks’ perspective, signing a player with Carter’s character, experience and leadership abilities was a relatively easy decision.
“He’s a good receiver, a good athlete, a good person and just a character individual,” said RedBlacks’ GM Marcel Desjardins. “Those kinds of players are hard to find. We have coaches who have worked with him and know him in-depth, so they know what to expect.
“Matt has been around, he has those leadership attributes and that’s something that’s very important with a young team like we have.”
In addition to expecting Carter to make some key catches on offense for the expansion RedBlacks in 2014, Desjardins looks for the West Kelowna product to be a factor on special teams.
“Matt isn’t the most physical guy, but he’s not afraid to get in there and get his nose dirty, and you can’t say that about all receivers,” Desjardins added. “We look for him to be a contributor on special teams.”
Regardless of what roles Carter fills and with how much frequency he plays, the CFL veteran plans to put all of his energies and experience to work with his new team.
“I’ve been a full-time starter, I’ve been a sixth man who rotates in, I’ve been on the practise roster,” Carter said, “…I’m a sort of journeyman and I feel like I know what it takes to be a pro through a long season. You need to be physically and mentally engaged to show up and play every day, and that’s what I plan on doing.”
Carter and the RedBlacks will take to the field June 14 for the team’s first ever exhibition game at home to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Ottawa will open the 2014 CFL regular season July 3 in Winnipeg.