‘Somebody’s a fool’ as Charleston Hughes, Riders part ways over just $15,000

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

Most say Father Time is undefeated, but Charleston Hughes believes age is just a number.

The newly-released defensive end joined Derek Taylor on The SportsCage mere hours after the Saskatchewan Roughriders severed ties and had little time for those concerned about his age.

“That’s completely up to them. I don’t know what the worry is,” Hughes dismissed. “If that’s what you’re boiling everything down to then it sounds like somebody’s a fool.”

The 37-year-old led the CFL with 16 sacks during the 2019 season, adding 50 tackles, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown in 17 games, and still believes he’s in the best shape of his life.

“You should see me right now man. I’m toned up. I’m built like I’m 22,” Hughes laughed.

The star pass rusher has led the CFL in sacks five times in his career: 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. The two-time Grey Cup champion had spent his entire career in Calgary until he was dealt to Hamilton and then to Saskatchewan. Hughes was acquired in February 2018 when the Riders sent quarterback Vernon Adams to the Ticats.

Hughes has played 181 career CFL games, recording 457 tackles, 130 sacks, 30 forced fumbles, three interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. During his two seasons in Saskatchewan, Hughes has averaged nearly one sack per game with 31 in 34 contests.

Hughes confirmed a report from TSN’s Farhan Lalji that the impasse between he and Riders GM Jeremy O’Day came down to just $15,000 dollars, but the future Hall of Famer stuck to his guns.

“My counter proposal to them was a pay cut and that’s what they wanted me to do, so when I offer a pay cut back to the team and they still deny the fact, I guess I didn’t do it in the way they wanted me to take a pay cut. I don’t know how else to go about the situation,” Hughes said.

“How much give and take should there be? I offered myself a pay cut and it didn’t work out.”

Hughes was scheduled to earn $157,500 in 2020, however, he only received $10,000 due to the CFL season being cancelled.

“If I was wanted, the contract would have been done and I’d be with the team,” Hughes continued. “There was ways to make it work and figure something out to keep me in Saskatchewan. I don’t think the effort was put in to keep me here.”

Hughes felt he had earned that level of effort in 2019, particularly after delaying necessary surgery for a painful and physically limiting bone chip in his elbow in order to play in the West Final.

“Me sacrificing that much for a team, you’ve got to be able to sacrifice a little bit for me,” he said. “I mean, I played with a broken arm for a playoff run where I thought we really had a chance to win the Grey Cup.”

Now free to sign elsewhere, Hughes has made his peace with the next chapter in his career.

“I’m in a happy place because now I don’t have to go back and forth on a contract that I knew was never going to happen.”