March 13, 2012
Dwight Anderson looked like he might be on his way out of Montreal at the start of this offseason, but Herb Zurkowsky of The Montreal Gazette has confirmed that the talented defensive back will be returning to the Alouettes this season. Anderson looked like a great acquisition for Montreal during free agency last year, but his 2011 play wasn't as great as hoped for, and he wound up embroiled in several controversies. He was fined by the league for getting his fingers in Saskatchewan receiver Weston Dressler's mask, accused of spitting on fans by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and even reportedly had the Alouettes tell him to stay away from the team following a late-season injury, making it seem unlikely he'd be back in Montreal this coming year. Yet, general manager Jim Popp said Anderson would be back earlier this offseason, and it now appears that he and coach Marc Trestman have worked out their differences. From this corner, that looks like a positive move for both Anderson and the Alouettes.
First, the Alouettes. Some would argue that it's never worth having a disruptive presence around regardless of the player's talent, but talent does tend to win a lot of football games. Anderson's talent is certainly evident; he starred with Calgary from 2008-10, picking up two divisional all-star nods and a league all-star nod in the process and establishing himself as one of the league's best cornerbacks. Moreover, defensive issues were at the heart of Montreal's struggles last season, and the secondary got even worse after Anderson went down. Bringing him back certainly upgrades the Alouettes' talent at defensive back, and he may not prove all that disruptive, either. Trestman's comments about him to Zurkowsky certainly weren't all that negative:
"Some of the things he did were resourceful and he wasn't totally out of the box," Trestman said Monday. "I don't think D.A. has much to change. He wasn't a distraction to any major degree."
Anderson's comments to Zurkowsky didn't sound all that jaded or upset, either:
"I'm not surprised at all to be returning," Anderson said from his winter home in St. Louis. "For sure we've spoken, mostly for our lines of communication. But I'm going to be the same player I've always been. But (Trestman) wants me to be more of a leader and made it clear there are expectations.
"We spoke about last season, but it wasn't just me. He has these talks with every player. We had some good conversations. I'm always going to be D.A. He just wants it to be between the lines."
This situation also could work out well for Anderson. While he likely would have been able to catch on with another team if Montreal cut him given his talent, many teams would be more leery of taking him on if he left Montreal under a cloud. He also likely wouldn't have been able to land a deal as lucrative as the one he signed in free agency last year. New defensive coordinator Jeff Reinebold is known for free thinking, so Anderson may fit in well under that system, and the Alouettes are a team that should contend for the Grey Cup again this season. If Anderson can put up with the team's rules and play to the level he's capable of, this could be a win for both sides.