Riders’ Chris Jones: ‘Until you’ve been around Duron, you don’t know exactly what he is’

Dan Ralph, Canadian Press

Duron Carter doesn’t have an axe to grind with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Carter will face his former team Saturday night when the Toronto Argonauts (3-8) host Saskatchewan (7-5). It will be Carter’s first contest against the Riders since they released him Aug. 11.

“No, I don’t think I’m an axe-grinding guy,” Carter said following Toronto’s walkthrough Friday. “I don’t think my axe skills are that (good).

“But you know, axe-throwing is something in Canada that I’ve seen and I want to get into.”

Riders head coach/GM Chris Jones has no animosity towards Carter.

“Duron is a great player,” Jones said. “He’s going to be a vital part of their offence, I’m sure, and we’re going to have our hands full covering him.

“Until you’ve been around Duron you don’t know exactly what he is.”

The six-foot-five, 205-pound Carter was in his second season with Saskatchewan when released. He was the Riders’ leading receiver last year with 1,043 yards and eight TDs on 73 catches but spent most of 2018 playing cornerback, recording eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown on the offensive side before being let go.

“It happens,” Carter said. “I’ve had to face a former team in Montreal before and eventually it just turns into a regular game.

“I’m sure there will be fireworks and everything at the beginning but at the end of the day it’s just another regular-season CFL game.”

Carter, 27, joined the Argos on Aug. 26 having registered 266 catches for 4,031 yards with 26 TDs in 65 career CFL games with Montreal and Saskatchewan. Twice he was a league all-star (2014, 2017).

Carter made his Toronto debut Sept. 8, returning two punts for 13 yards and one kickoff for 18 yards in a 36-25 home loss to Hamilton. Carter is slated to start against Saskatchewan.

“We’re going to continue to try to move forward with inserting him into the game,” Argos head coach Marc Trestman said. “He won’t play the whole game but he’ll play more than he did last time and we’ll continue to move him along.

“He’s getting better, he’s assimilating the offence. He’s done a great job in the locker room and in meetings.”

And Trestman said the often gregarious Carter has been a good teammate.

“Duron’s a very friendly guy but he’s not out there in a way that he’s distracting anybody from working,” Trestman said. “As coaches we don’t want to distract our players from doing their jobs and we don’t want players to distract our team or individual players.

“Duron has done a good job of that.”

Carter has often been portrayed publicly as a loose cannon, especially when he’d mix it up with fans on social media. This season, Carter closed his twitter account but said Friday he’s comfortable with his persona.

“I know exactly what I’m saying,” he said. “Regardless of (whether) people agree or disagree.”

Carter, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famers Cris Carter, said he’s settled into his new life in Toronto, spending his leisure time riding his bike to check out the sights. And unlike Regina, where Carter was often recognized in public, he enjoys a certain amount of anonymity in southern Ontario.

“I don’t think anybody in Toronto is worried about Duron Carter on his bike like they would be in Regina,” he said. “I love just being a guy on his bike in the city and sight-seeing.”

However, there are intrepid Argos fans who quickly recognize Carter away from the football field.

“Yeah, a few people have had my jersey,” he said. “I haven’t even seen my jersey on sale so I don’t even know how they got it.

“That’s definitely heart-warming to be able to come to a new city and people still recognize you for what you do.”

Saturday’s game is important to both clubs.

Toronto enters weekend action eight points behind first-place Ottawa (7-5) in the East Division standings and trailing second-place Hamilton (6-6). There’s also ground to be made up on the B.C. Lions (5-6) and Winnipeg Blue Bombers (5-7), who’re tied for fourth in the West Division

The Riders have won four of their last five games and are currently tied with Edmonton for second in the West.

The Argos have long struggled to attract spectators to home games, prompting numerous suggestions of a disinterest between Toronto sports fans and the CFL franchise. But Carter strongly disputed that notion.

“I think it (disinterest in Argos) is very over-rated,” he said. “Last game they had the top blocked off but the game was pretty much full.

“People recognize us on the street, there’s people at practice so I think the media does a terrible job of expressing how Toronto Argonauts fans really are.”

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