Argos general manager Jim Popp discusses how the double blue came to the decision to sign Duron Carter and what went down when the two were together in Montreal with 3Down’s Justin Dunk.
Justin Dunk: Did it surprise you that the Riders released Duron Carter?
Jim Popp: I wasn’t surprised. There had been some talks of him potentially being moved. At the time, it was just a situation for us that wasn’t so-called right. When I saw he got released it kind of hit me of why that buzz was out there that he might be traded a week or two prior. That probably kept me from being surprised. But until something like that happens with a star player in the league there is that element of ‘wow’ they let him go. Any star, it could be Adarius Bowman that gets let go. That happens, every year we all go through it on all our teams and there are choices made or sometimes it’s cap room, somebody frees some money up to do some other things or they want to change the ratio. When you’re looking from the outside and you see a player that’s usually a receiver on the defensive side – Saskatchewan has a lot of receivers. It’s one of these things where to some degree it’s a surprise and others it’s not.
Dunk: What was the next step the Argos took after Carter became a free agent?
Popp: Initially when he got released, it was just a situation where it sat there for a few days and then I just made the staff aware: I know this guy well, he’s a player that I would suggest that we talk about. That was discussed and the coaching staff beat it around amongst themselves. Then coach Trestman and I had another discussion and a third discussion. I talked to Duron and his agent, they had called me. My first suggestion was before even saying we’re going to do this I think a decision needs to be made that we need to have a sit-down discussion, make sure it’s a good fit for both parties before we actually are going to do this, make sure there is a comfort level. That’s as simple as it was. We eventually had the meeting and then we made a decision that we were going to move forward, it was a comfortable enough discussion that we all felt like this is well worth the opportunity. But we didn’t want to move on it last week. The opportunity was here and he wanted to be here. They had to let other teams know he wasn’t interested in going, he had other opportunities but he wanted to be here. We know Duron well. It comes down to a comfort level with our staff. Our culture has always been everybody is the same, come in work your tail off, the opportunities are there, then it’s just a matter of embracing it and everybody trusting one another and then the opportunities come.
Dunk: What happened in Montreal?
Popp: There’s a lot of things that go on how or why something happens, people think they know. We had a great locker room in Montreal, a lot of good people. The reality is that I wasn’t coaching there, I probably wasn’t going to be there, there were decisions I had already come to. Sometimes from the outside, it’s much different than it is internally, but it was just a decision made above myself that Duron was going to be let go. It was really catered to the guy that was going to be the head coach for the future. Initially, that didn’t happen but then that’s what the coach wanted to do so that’s what the powers above decided they wanted to do. I could’ve easily traded him a week or two before and then it came after the trade deadline. It wasn’t something that I was in favour of.
Jim Popp has always been a supporter and a fan of Duron Carter. I’ve had Duron once in Montreal then he went to the NFL, then twice in Montreal. I know a lot about Duron. I got on Duron after he had been at Alabama because of my whole connection at Alabama with Nick Saban, so they told me about Duron and that’s when I got on him and followed him. I decided we should look at Duron. You’re talking about a guy that spent several weeks on the practice roster before he ever stepped on the field his rookie season. And when he did in 11 games he put up over 900 yards and probably could’ve won rookie of the year like James Wilder Jr. did last year. Led the league averaging over 18 yards per catch. We had a rookie quarterback in Troy Smith and it just worked.
Dunk: What tangible growth have you seen in Carter from his time in Montreal to now?
Popp: He was a young man, we’re talking about a 20 or 21-year-old and hadn’t played a lot of football since his freshman year at Ohio State. It’s been a journey. He’s an unbelievable athlete. He’s an extraordinarily intelligent guy. Like any young person, there is a level of finding yourself, maturing and going through that growth process that he’s gone in to at a young age where he didn’t have that college structure for a while. There’s going to be changes and learning lessons along the way. Coach and I, players, a lot of guys have gone through these things. It’s a new experience, it’s brand new, it’s a clean slate come in here, but we have a way of doing things and that’s how we expect it to be done and either people do it that way or they don’t, it’s not hard.
Most young men continue to grow into there late 20’s as they’re going through it there is a reality to stuff. There are only so many opportunities. Even though he was let go from my understanding there were three other teams, so he still had half the league trying to sign him. Those numbers dwindle each time. But one thing I think you realize along the way is some of the people you’ve been with that have helped, S.J. and Bear Woods are some of those guys when you talk about the players. That’s where he wanted to be. He could’ve chosen somewhere else and maybe it might have been easier for him and he chose something different. He wanted to be with us.
Dunk: Does Butch, his uncle, being in the city help Carter?
Popp: That can only be a positive, especially if you get to go fishing. I understand Butch is a great guy and I’m sure he loves being with his uncle. I don’t know too many people that don’t like to go fishing so it probably was a great thing for him before we started back up.