Alouettes' Worthy long past point of seeking redemption versus Argos

Chandler Worthy is exactly where he thought he'd be.

When CFL training camps opened in May, the veteran receiver/returner expected to end the season in the Grey Cup game. He's one win away from doing so but what Worthy didn't know was it wouldn't be with the Toronto Argonauts.

Worthy spent his first three CFL seasons with Toronto (2017, 2019, 2021) before being released following the Argos' first exhibition game May 29. Two days later, the five-foot-eight, 177-pound speedster joined the Montreal Alouettes.

Toronto hosts Montreal in the East Division final Sunday. The winner advances to the Grey Cup in Regina on Nov. 20.

"When I left my house in May, I said I was going to a Grey Cup this year," Worthy said during a telephone interview. "I didn't determine my team but I'm excited to have the opportunity to fulfil that dream.

"That's all my focus is on, honestly. It's being in Saskatchewan next week and doing whatever I can to help my team get there this week."

And that will be first and foremost on Worthy's mind. Any thoughts of redemption will be long gone considering this will be Worthy's fourth game against his former team and third visit this season to Toronto.

The Argos won the season series 2-1 but the three games were decided by a combined seven points.

"Of course, I was cut from there but it doesn't add any more weight to the game because I know if I say focused I'll be able to execute the way we need to," Worthy said. "You have to put your emotions aside because sometimes they can make you think that your own personal agenda might be bigger.

"But for me, this moment is much bigger than that. It's humbling myself to know it's going to take all 12 of us and sticking to our game plan, which will make us most effective Sunday."

Worthy, 29, has been a special-teams dynamo with Montreal, returning 47 punts for 547 yards (11.6-yard average) and 51 kickoffs for 1,220 yards (23.9-yard average) and two TDs. He has also had three missed field goal returns for 57 yards en route to being named the East Division's all-star special-teams player.

Worthy also had four receptions for 32 yards. He has appeared in almost as many regular-season games with Montreal (15) this year as he did over three campaigns with Toronto (16).

Worthy's tenure in Toronto was sometimes a roller-coaster as he often spent time on the practice roster and was released multiple times, then re-signed by the CFL club. His best season with the Argos was 2021 when he appeared in nine regular-season games and registered 16 catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

In thee regular-season games versus Toronto, Worthy registered two catches for 21 yards, five punt returns for 87 yards (including a 41-yard runback), 10 kickoff returns for 229 yards and two missed field-goal returns for 28 yards. Worthy played a role in Montreal's 28-17 East Division semifinal home win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday, registering six punt returns for 94 yards (including one of 47 yards) and a 49-yard kickoff return.

And for Worthy, the key on special teams is staying aware about what's going on around him and being able to quickly take advantage of opportunity when it comes knocking.

"In my mind, I just think, 'Score,' every time and every play," Worthy said. "As long as my mind is in attack mode and I'm thinking, 'Go after every play,' then those moments tend to come more frequently.

"You have to be present, you have to be always renew your mind after each and every play. That margin of error is so small that you have to be there when that small window opens and be able to take advantage of it."

Worthy credits his Alouettes teammates with allowing him to fit in seamlessly in Montreal.

"When I got here, the one thing that separated this team from any other I'd been on was the chemistry the players already had," he said. "They made me feel welcomed, the guys kind of just opened up to me and took me in."

Montreal had some early-season adversity to overcome. Head coach Khari Jones was fired July 6 following the club's 1-3 start and replaced on an interim basis by GM Danny Maciocia.

Montreal heads into the East final having won eight of its last 11 games.

"Our guys have done a good job of being able to stay focused on getting one per cent better every day, giving it our all for each other and letting the chips fall where they may," Worthy said. "It took a little time for us to all come together but I think it just shows how special this team is.

"People are just now seeing what we've been working on all year and the results of a team believing in each other."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press