Alouettes owner Gary Stern was ‘so upset’ at Vernon Adams Jr. for initially deciding to opt out

Photo courtesy: Peter McCabe/CFL

Montreal Alouettes’ owner Gary Stern is nothing if not honest.

When franchise quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. initially decided to opt out of his CFL contract to pursue NFL opportunities, Stern was not pleased.

“Can I give you my honest, honest answer? Hope it doesn’t get me in trouble. I was so upset that this guy, our leader, our everything going forward [opted out],” Stern said on TSN 690 radio in Montreal when asked about the situation by host Tony Marinaro.

Adams Jr. signed a three-year contract extension in January, which means his CFL rights would have been held by Montreal through the 2022 season even if he pursued employment in the NFL. He already collected a $20,000 roster in addition to a $165,000 signing bonus in 2020. The rising CFL star posted a message to Als fans on his Twitter account.

“I don’t think I can get in trouble for saying this. We talked, he called me. I’ll get in trouble, probably. He actually called me before to let me know, and said, ‘we have this, this is what I’m doing.’ And I said, ‘Vernon, this is a life decision you make. I have great respect for you, so whatever decision you make I will respect,'” Stern said.

“But me, I said, ‘you’re committed, the Alouettes fans look at you as a hero, the media, everything, you’re our guy. The optics don’t look good, so in something that you’re really undecided about, take a day or two and think about it.’ He did and it goes again to my respect for this guy, there was no real pressure other than that. We relied on that man, our leader, and he came out two days later and says, ‘you know what, I’m back, I’m not opting out.'”

Montreal made the playoffs this past season for the first time since 2014 with a 10-8 record and hosted a playoff game last season. Adams Jr. produced a 10-5 win-loss record while throwing for 3,942 yards, 24 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions and rushed for 394 yards with a league-high 12 majors. He was the East Division all-star quarterback in 2019.

“Vernon called me to let me know, I called Danny [Maciocia]. Danny said, ‘that’s anybody’s right,’ and I left it to him. I said, ‘but guys, I have spoken to Vernon, and I’ve told him how I feel because I don’t want to be interfering.’ I want to leave it with them, but I spoke to him and I said, ‘if that’s who you are, do it.’ And between the three of us, and having a great guy like Vernon, it happened, he’s here,” Stern said.

“But I do leave everything to them. They come to me and give me their ideas and it’s what I told them. They’re my guys — Khari’s our coach, Vernon’s our quarterback. I gotta make sure that the money and the funding is there so that they can do what they can do. They’ve more than lived up to what they said, and I’ve more than lived up to what I told them. And we’re playing football next year.”

Through a team-issued statement Adams Jr. said: After deeply reviewing and reflecting upon my opportunities south of the border, I’ve come to the conclusion that my heart is in Montreal. We started something special in 2019, and I remain fully committed to taking this team to the next step. The best way to do so is to remain with the club, and help make us better in any way possible.

“He is one of the most tremendous individuals, honest, hard-working guy — he’s going to be our leader for years, when I heard that, and I think I have a good relationship with Vernon. Over the months we would be talking, the future, I get his input, I really, really respected the guy,” Stern said.

“That’s what you want on your team — he’s our leader. That’s how that happened and I’m so happy with that guy.”