The Montreal Alouettes' offseason has been full of changes, and the team's decision this week to release backup quarterback Adrian McPherson, wide receiver Brian Bratton and wide receiver/returner Trent Guy is just the latest one. The team's lost some notable figures, including head coach Marc Trestman and several assistants to the Chicago Bears and assistant general manager Marcel Desjardins to the new Ottawa expansion team, but they've also already acquired some promising players, including Byron Parker, Arland Bruce and Quinton Porter. The release of McPherson, Bratton and Guy shows general manager Jim Popp is continuing to remake the Alouettes' roster, moving on from players who have played important roles in the past.
McPherson's release is probably the most notable, as he's been the team's top backup to Anthony Calvillo for most of the last five seasons. There have been rumours in the past that he could get a CFL look as a starter elsewhere, but Edmonton's trade for Mike Reilly means they likely won't pursue McPherson, Winnipeg hasn't shown a great deal of interest in him and the other teams appear to be set for starters. Still, McPherson could well wind up as a CFL backup elsewhere with an eye to impressing in that role, which might help him land more opportunities with existing CFL teams or help convince the new Ottawa team to take him in December's expansion draft. McPherson may look to see if other leagues are more willing to give him a starting job, though, as his comments to Herb Zurkowsky of The Montreal Gazette suggest he wants to play sooner rather than later:
“It was just time to move on,” McPherson said. “He (Calvillo) is still playing at a high level. It’s best that I look elsewhere. In a sense, the organization doesn’t know what they’re getting out of me because I haven’t played. I understand.
“The future had to be now. I’m 30. I can’t be the future. I want to play. I wasn’t willing to wait. They weren’t willing and I understand that.”
The releases of Bratton and Guy also deserve a bit of examination. Guy was only with the team this past year, but he was the latest in a string of Alouettes' returners who haven't particularly impressed. Getting better yardage on punt and kick returns has to be a priority for Popp and the Alouettes this season. The solution may already be on the roster, as Noel Devine and Bo Bowling both showed potential late last season, or it may be someone still lurking out there. It's clear Guy wasn't really the answer for Montreal, though, either as a receiver or as a returner.
What's interesting about Bratton's release is that it comes after he dropped a critical, potentially game-tying pass in the closing seconds of the East Final. At the time, Trestman refused to blame him and said part of the issue was Calvillo being forced to throw off-speed across his body. This isn't definitive punishment for Bratton's error; he's 30, he only caught 28 passes for 469 yards last year and he was set to be a free agent this month, so his release may just be something that may have been coming anyway. It's a lot easier to cut a guy after he muffs a play like that than it is to cut a playoff hero, though. Anyway, it's worth remembering that Bratton spent six mostly-solid seasons with the Alouettes, and that he was the epitome of class in the days following that East Final drop. From Sean Fitz-Gerald of The National Post, here's what Bratton said after he was honoured with the Tom Pate Memorial Award (for sportsmanship and contributions to his team, his community and the league):
“Well, I’m never going to be defined by the game of football,” Bratton said on Thursday. “And I’m definitely not going to be defined by one play.”...
“When I take my helmet off every day, whether it’s practice or after a game — or when I take it off after my career’s over — I’ve got to be known for something,” he said. “My goal in life is just to live a life of significance. Football is a tool, and something that I do now, and that’s going to lead me to something else.”
Bratton, who lives in Greenville, S.C., credits his wife for helping him become more involved in charitable work within his community at home. He runs a football clinic in the U.S., and speaks at schools.
“There’s kids, specifically young men, who are growing up without father figures, or their father figures are in prison or jail,” he said. “And now, I’m that guy, I’m that father figure. I’m that person who can tell them they can.”
Each CFL team nominates a player for the Tom Pate Award, which means Bratton was recognized by his peers for his work.
“It’s great to win this award, because that says I’m doing something as a person,” he said, “and not just as a football player.”
Bratton's already accomplished plenty off the field, and he may be able to accomplish more on it yet. The release of McPherson, Guy and Bratton likely spells the end of their time in Montreal, but we may not have seen the last of them in the CFL. All were important parts of the Alouettes, though, and their departures add to the sense that we'll see a very different Montreal team this coming season.