Can Con: Canadians who earned NFL roster spots

They’re called America’s Team, but the Dallas Cowboys will have a more definite Canadian flavour this season.

Long-snapper Louis-Philippe Ladouceur of Montreal and defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford of Windsor, Ont., both return for yet another NFL campaign with Dallas. Also, former CFL player Brett Maher opens the season as the Cowboys’ kicker after surprisingly unseating incumbent Dan Bailey, the second-most accurate kicker in league history.

Ladouceur, 37, has been a model of consistency with Dallas. Entering his 14th season, the six-foot-six, 256-pound Canadian is not only the Cowboys’ longest-tenured player but hasn’t missed a game in his pro career.

When Dallas kicks off its 2018 season in Carolina next Sunday, Ladouceur will start his 206th straight contest. And through it all, he’s been perfect on 1,875 career snaps on punts, converts and field goals.

He flawlessly executed 142 snaps last season (66 on punts, 38 on field goals, 38 converts). Heady stuff for a player who joined the Cowboys following the third week of the ’05 season after being released by the New Orleans Saints.

The six-foot-four, 285-pound Crawford enters his seventh season with Dallas after being taken in the third round, No, 81 overall, in the 2012 NFL draft out of Boise State. Crawford, 28, has started 59 of 77 regular-season games with the Cowboys, registering 143 tackles, 16.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Last season, Crawford played in all 16 regular-season games _ for the second time in three years _ and had 27 tackles and four sacks.

Maher, 28, of Kearney, Neb., hit 107 of 137 field goals (78.1 per cent) with the Ottawa Redblacks (2014-15, 2017) and Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2016). The six-foot-one, 183-pound Maher played collegiately at Nebraska.

Ironically, Maher signed with Dallas in August 2013 to play in an exhibition game while Bailey recovered from an injury. Maher was released two weeks later.

Maher joined the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in May 2014 and appeared in two exhibition games before being released. The following week he signed with the Redblacks and finished the season making 25 of 37 field goals (67.6 per cent) and posting a 45.4-yard punting average.

Ladouceur and Crawford are among 12 Canadians to start the season on an NFL team’s 53-man roster. That’s half the number of Canucks who were on training-camp rosters back in July.

Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., begins his fifth season with Kansas City. The former McGill star enters the second year of the US$41.25-million extension he signed with the Chiefs that made him the highest-paid Canadian football player in NFL history.

The 2014 sixth-round draft pick made headlines in May when he graduated from medical school. That made Duvernay-Tardif the first active NFL player to become a physician.

Other Canadians on NFL rosters include:

– Defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd of Ajax, Ont. The New York Jets selected the six-foot-four, 315-pound Shepherd in the third round, No. 72 overall, in this year’s draft out Fort Hays State. The Canadian hasn’t disappointed and is a projected starter.

– Defensive lineman Brent Urban of Mississauga, Ont. Injuries have plagued the 2014 fourth-round pick, who missed 39 games over parts of four seasons with Baltimore. But the six-foot-seven, 300-pound Urban opens the ’18 campaign as the Ravens’ starting defensive end.

– Defensive end Christian Covington of Vancouver. The Houston Texans’ six-foot-two, 305-pound defensive lineman looks to successfully come back from last year’s season-ending biceps tear. The son of Canadian Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman Grover Covington is entering his fourth season with Houston.

– Defensive lineman David Onyemata of Winnipeg. The former Manitoba star is entering his third season with the New Orleans Saints, who selected the six-foot-four, 300-pounder in the fourth round, No. 120 overall, in the 2016 NFL draft. He started six games last season, registering 38 tackles and two sacks.

– Tight end Luke Willson of LaSalle, Ont. Willson signed this off-season with the Detroit Lions, right across the border from where he grew up, after five seasons with Seattle. The personable six-foot-five, 254-pound Willson had 89 catches for 1,129 yards with 11 TDs during his tenure with the Seahawks while also earning a Super Bowl ring.

– Tight end Antony Auclair of Notre-Dame-des-Pins, Que. The former Laval star begins his second season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The six-foot-six, 256-pound Auclair had two catches for 25 yards in 2017.

– Centre Brett Jones of Weyburn, Sask. He begins his first season with the Minnesota Vikings after recently being acquired from the New York Giants. The six-foot-two, 312-pound former Calgary Stampeder spent three seasons with the Giants.

– Receiver T.J. Jones of Winnipeg. The six-foot, 188-pound receiver/kick-returner enters his fifth season with the Lions. The former Notre Dame star appeared in 14 games _ six starts _ in 2017, registering a career-high 30 catches for 399 yards and one touchdown before suffering a shoulder injury.

– Defensive tackle Eli Ankou of Ottawa. The six-foot-three, 325-pound former UCLA Bruin had 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks in nine games last season, his first with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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