This is my favourite Josh Freeman story from his time in the CFL. It is also my only Josh Freeman story.
We were walking the streets of downtown Winnipeg during CFL Week, traversing the distance between our chosen dining spot and a watering hole at which we planned the next portion of our evening. There were a gaggle of us, about a half dozen, ambling along on a chilly though not-quite-frigid late March evening.
I don’t remember the bar we passed or even the street it was on but I do remember this: there was six-foot-six, 240-pound guy standing outside having a cigarette. He smiled and said hello as we walked by.
There was a moment of silence in our group after we passed as it took a moment for what we had just seen to register on our collective consciousness. Finally, somebody said:
“That was Josh Freeman.”
The Montreal Alouettes quarterback was smoking a cigarette outside a Winnipeg bar in March. It was, even then, a giant warning klaxon that perhaps his heart wasn’t quite in this whole CFL thing.
— John Hodge (@JohnDHodge) May 26, 2018
I spoke to Freeman briefly during CFL Week and someone else from the site interviewed him in more detail. The general takeaway: Freeman seemed like a nice enough dude but not necessarily fully up to speed on the unique nature and specific challenges of the CFL game. I found myself wondering, particularly after seeing him puffing a dart, if his heart was really in it.
Freeman made more than $28 million during his seven years in the NFL and so money was unlikely his primary motivation. He’s already 30 so getting back to the NFL after two years in Canada seemed unlikely. Some guys play in Canada because they eat, breathe and poop football and the CFL gives them a chance to continue in the game. But Freeman doesn’t seem like one of those types, either, given that his teammates ripped him for not knowing the offence in Minnesota.
But Freeman has played football his entire life and it’s likely the only thing he’s ever really known – post-football career transitions can be difficult for any player. Freeman may have wanted to try and delay the inevitable just a little bit longer. Now, he’ll have little choice but to start that phase of his life.