The Snap: Two former Alouettes criticize organization’s business procedures
REGINA – Two former Alouettes have lashed out at the organization over the manner in which they conduct their financial affairs.
“It starts from the top and it’s a financial thing,” said Saskatchewan middle-linebacker Henoc Muamba. “There’s been a lot of situations where they’ve promised guys some type of money – and I was one.”
Muamba, a former first-overall draft choice in the Canadian Football League, signed with the Als in late September 2015 – Montreal winning a bidding war against Hamilton and Edmonton. He signed a two-year contract calling for a pro-rated salary of at least $225,000. He dressed for four games, producing 14 tackles and an interception.
But the Als released him last February, before he was due a bonus payment of $60,000. General manager Jim Popp said at the time he attempted unsuccessfully to restructure the deal, while also intimating Muamba had some injury issues.
Muamba maintained he was healthy.
“I just don’t think that’s how you handle business. You don’t promise someone anything knowing you’re going to make a decision or a move at the end of the season,” Muamba charged.
He tried out for the Dallas Cowboys this season before eventually signing with the Roughriders. He was selected first overall by Winnipeg in 2011, spending three seasons with the Blue Bombers before signing with the Indianapolis Colts in 2014. He dressed for 13 games.
Canadian quarterback Brandon Bridge, meanwhile, appeared to be the Als’ pivot of the future – one of many who have occupied that mantle since the retirement of Anthony Calvillo – last November.
Bridge, a fourth-round (31st overall) draft choice in 2015, started the regular-season finale against Saskatchewan, both teams having been eliminated from playoff contention. He completed 21 of 30 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns before being replaced in the fourth quarter by Anthony Boone.
The Als squandered a 24-6 fourth-quarter lead before losing in overtime.
But Bridge quickly became the odd-man-out this year, after the Als traded a first-round draft choice to British Columbia for Vernon Adams. He was fourth on the depth chart when he was released on Aug. 1, only dressing for two games prior to that when Adams suffered a concussion. At the same time, Bridge struggled on third-down, short-yardage conversions.
“I think it was just a business decision. The contract issue was the whole situation. Jim Popp made a decision,” Bridge said. “He made a decision – and the best of luck to him.”
Bridge, who was in the final year of his contract, claimed Popp wanted him to take a pay reduction of $20,000. He balked. Popp said Bridge had the option of remaining on the team but requested his release. Popp said Bridge could have gone on the six-game injured list or on injured reserved, adding talks on a contract extension had reached an impasse.
“I felt it wasn’t right,” Bridge said. “If I signed a contract, I’m staying true to it. They should stay true to it. If I should play well, I’m sure if I walked into (Popp’s) office and told him I wanted more money, he’d look at me crazy and tell me to finish out the year.
“I felt it should have gone the same way. That’s why I declined so many times. I know there’s a lot of talk about them being over the cap and asking a lot of players to take pay cuts. They went out and grabbed players and paid them big bucks. I guess it bit them in the butt. They were asking a lot of people to take pay cuts.”
Bridge, who’s 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, hasn’t seen his situation drastically change in Saskatchewan. He’s one of four quarterbacks. Although he dresses for games, he’s behind starter Darian Durant and Jake Waters on the depth chart. Durant’s a potential free agent in February but is expected to resign well before the deadline.
Bridge has dressed for 10 games, but attempted only two passes.
Although he’s a non-import, he played collegiately at South Alabama and believes he’ll get a legitimate opportunity with Riders head coach Chris Jones.
“He doesn’t care if you’re Canadian, black, white, Chinese. You can be left-handed or right-handed. As long as you get the job done, you’ll get a chance. That’s why I signed here,” Bridge said. “I trust his word and am waiting my opportunity.”
While Bridge has the size to convert to another position – and wouldn’t be the first Canadian quarterback forced to do so – he said that option isn’t part of his immediate future.
“I feel I can be an effective quarterback, I just need a chance,” he said.
Bridge became the first Canadian quarterback to start a game in the league since Giulio Caravatta in 1996.