Alouettes owner Gary Stern: ‘We all saw Vernon Adams Jr. really making a mistake opting out’

Photo courtesy: Peter McCabe/CFL

Montreal Alouettes owner Gary Stern did not want franchise quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. opting out of his CFL contract to explore potential NFL opportunities.

Adams Jr. published a heartfelt message to fans on Sunday and stated: “I am electing to opt out of my contract for this season in order to pursue the possibility of gaining an NFL roster spot.” However, the paperwork wasn’t finalized at the time and Stern entered the equation.

“I’m not the kind of guy where I would hold it over him. Owner interference? No. We all saw him as really making a mistake in opting out — but that’s his choice. There was never any real pressure,” Stern told Montreal Gazette reporter Herb Zurkowsky.

“I sincerely believed he was going to opt back in. If that’s really the case the image doesn’t look good of who you are and we’re building around you. I respect whatever decision you make but, from a personal point of view, I don’t agree with it. The image of opting out presents some difficulties.”

After leading the Als to a 10-8 record and first post-season appearance since 2014 last season — snapping a franchise-worst four-year streak — Montreal signed Adams Jr. to a three-year contract extension. It included a $165,000 signing bonus and could near $1.5 million in overall value.

“That happens in any business. You put up money based on normal business decisions. This virus has taken away so many normal decisions. The players haven’t done anything wrong. I have no regrets that he got a bonus,” Stern said.

The Alouettes dual-threat QB passed for 3,942 yards in 16 games and finishing second in the CFL with 24 touchdown passes. He rushed 82 times for 394 yards (4.8 yards-per-carry) and tied the league lead with 12 rushing touchdowns. Those totals earned him East Division all-star honours. It’s clear Stern wanted his rising star committed to Montreal.

“Do you think I influenced him? I hope so. But more as a father figure,” Stern said. “In the final analysis, we decided that the people who made sure he was a part of their future were also a part of his.”