Marcus Ball isn't stressing about his first foray into CFL free agency.
The veteran linebacker still remains unsigned nearly two months after hitting the free-agent market. But the 31-year-old isn't losing sleep over it.
"I think it's understanding the business side of the game and the CBA aspect of it," Ball said in a telephone interview. "As far as being on the sidelines and on a team right now, hey, that's the way the ball rolls sometimes.
"I know and believe there are coaches and players out there who know I can still make these plays and make it happen out there. It's just a matter of opportunity and the right situation."
The CFL and its players continue to hammer out a new collective-bargaining agreement with the current deal slated to expire next month. Among the details to be negotiated is the league's salary cap, which stood at $5.2 million last season.
Ball, a six-foot-one, 209-pound linebacker, was hopeful his football future would be determined shortly after the start of free agency Feb. 12. But experience has taught Ball that finding the right situation is more important than signing a deal early.
He has been a productive CFL player with 238 tackles, seven sacks and two interceptions over four seasons (56 starts) with the Toronto Argonauts. Ball has also started for two Grey Cup-winning Argos teams (2012, '17).
The married father of two young children — six-year-old daughter, Marley, and two-year-old son, Blaise — had 44 tackles and an interception in 10 games last season. Ball finished the campaign on the injured list with hamstring ailment that he says is ancient history now.
"I'm so far removed from that hamstring," he said. "I feel great, I've been great, I've been feeling great, I've been told I look great and that I move great.
"To be honest with you, I was able to come back and play last year but the decision Marc (former Argos head coach Marc Trestman), Jim (GM Jim Popp) and I reached was with the down season we were having, we kind of put it on the shelf."
Toronto posted a CFL-worst 4-14 record last season after winning the Grey Cup the previous season, Trestman's first with the Argos. Hours after the '18 campaign ended, Trestman was fired and replaced with Corey Chamblin, the defensive co-ordinator of the '17 championship squad.
Ball said his agent, Vancouver-based Dan Vertlieb, last spoke to the Argos about two or three weeks ago. While Ball would readily welcome a return to Toronto, his top priority is finding the ideal situation for himself and his family.
"My wife and I love Toronto, it's become a second home," he said. "My No. 1 priority, honestly, is getting back on a roster in the best situation for me and my family.
"If that's Toronto, that's great because I'd more than happy and willing to do that. But if it's elsewhere or other opportunities open up and present the best situation for me, that's just the way of the game."
Ball likes where he's at professionally. He has the benefit of experience with seven years of pro football under his belt — including three in the NFL with New Orleans (2014), Carolina (2015-16), Jacksonville (2016) and San Francisco (2016) — but has played four in Canada and feels his best football here remains in front of him.
"If a quarterback is 33 or 34, people will say he's in his prime," Ball said. "If a running back or wide receiver is 23, they'll say they're in their prime.
"At my position, you're not going to have a guy in his prime at age 22, nor will you have a guy in his prime at 35. It's not like I have a lot of wear and tear on my body, it's not like my legs are shot. After coming back (to CFL in 2017) and playing last season, I think I'm in my prime and I've got a grip on this game now."
Ball isn't ready to call it a career just yet.
"Hell, yes, I still want to play, absolutely," Ball said. "Honestly, yeah, I am a little (surprised to still be a free agent) but it is what it is.
"I'm not going to jump off the bridge here. I'm very confident and we'll see what happens but, absolutely, I can still go out there . . . and be one of the top guys at my position in the CFL."
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press