It hasn’t taken Bear Woods long to feel at home with the Toronto Argonauts.
Woods joined his new team Thursday and immediately felt at ease given the Argos boast several former Montreal Alouettes on their roster. And there’s also the matter of Toronto’s head coach and GM being Marc Trestman and Jim Popp, respectively, two individuals the 30-year-old Woods is also intimately familiar with.
“I feel at home because I recognize a whole lot of faces,” Woods said prior to Toronto’s exhibition game against Montreal at BMO Field. “Their philosophy seems to fit my philosophy: Run and hit.”
Woods signed with Toronto after being released by the Alouettes. The stunning move came early in the morning on the second day of training camp and involved Woods, a player who was a two-time CFL all-star in Montreal and the East Division’s top defensive player in 2016 for the second time in three years.
“I guess, (I was) surprised but at age 30, you know, knowing pro ball, expect the unexpected,” Woods said. “”They (Alouettes) said they wanted to go younger, that was the exact quote.
“My response was, ‘I thought I was relatively young on this defence.’ ”
The six-foot, 245-pound Woods had 232 tackles, 15 special- teams tackles, 12 sacks, six forced fumbles and three interceptions over six seasons with Montreal. He was second in the CFL in tackles last year with 126 while adding five sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions.
Woods certainly fills a need in Toronto following the abrupt retirement of former Montreal linebacker Winston Venable shortly after the start of training camp. Woods said he harbours no resentment towards the Alouettes or rookie GM Kavis Reed.
“The timing was not good for my family but I guess if you think about it when is the timing ever good,” Woods said. “I told Kavis, ‘I pray the Lord still blesses you and I’ll continue to pray for you,’ and gave him a hug and left out the door.
“In the business world everyone has their opinion on what’s right and what’s wrong. But at the end of this day I’m a Toronto Argonaut, I get to play professional football in Canada. Man, that’s awesome.”
In Toronto, Woods will play for Corey Chamblin, who’s in his first season as the Argos assistant head coach, defensive co-ordinator and secondary coach. In 2013, Chamblin won a Grey Cup as the Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach.
“A match made in heaven,” Wood said of being teamed with Chamblin. “I’ve been in meetings and his tenacity, his passion and detail to the game are remarkable.
“That detail is what’s going to benefit me as a player.”
And Woods expects to be up to speed with Chamblin’s defence in no time.
“Quickly, that’s part of my game,” he said. “I’ve always been known as a cerebral player in understanding the game and a lot of that is credited to coach Thorpe (Montreal defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe) and (Als senior defensive assistant) Greg Quick.
“Toronto is where I wanted to be. Jim Popp has stood by my side throughout my whole career. I’ve had three people my whole life who’ve said, ‘This is my guy.’ One is my father, one is my grandfather and the third guy is Jim Popp. I’m so appreciative of the opportunity I have here now.”