Charleston Hughes thought he was going to be “the guy” along Toronto’s defensive line this past season, but things didn’t unfold as expected when he signed with the team as a free agent.
“The way everything started working out — the job that they were asking me to do — was kind of not what I signed up for. It ended up just being a mutual agreement, us just saying, ‘Look, I wasn’t happy.’ They couldn’t really do nothing to make me happy, so it was best ways that we just parted,” Hughes told The Sportscage on CKRM.
The future Canadian Football Hall of Fame pass-rusher recorded 18 tackles and two sacks over nine games with the Argos, both of which were career-lows. He was also a healthy scratch for two contests in the middle of the regular season before spending the end of the year on the one-game injured list.
Hughes denied feeling animosity towards the Riders when he was unable to agree to a contract extension with the club in February 2021, calling his departure “bittersweet.” He was in the middle of a project management course during negotiations and suggested that he would have handled things differently if he’d already completed his coursework.
“(Project management) helps with your mindset about how you weigh risk, that’s the best way to look at it. It helps you with developing a thought process on a project — that project was myself — and how to weigh and decipher the difference between high-risk and low-risk and what those risks are. I didn’t take into account all the risk factors of me leaving Saskatchewan and going to another team,” said Hughes.
“I didn’t weigh the risks of me going to Toronto. If I would have put all those variables into the equation of me leaving, I might have looked at it different and I would have stayed.”
Hughes signed back with the Riders on Tuesday, rejoining the club with which he dominated for two seasons (2018-2019) before the COVID-19 pandemic. He recorded 85 tackles, 31 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and two touchdowns in 34 games with the Green and White and is excited to be back in Regina.
“It’s where I felt the most comfortable. Although I played in Calgary for ten years (2008-2017), I felt like I played in Saskatchewan for ten years and I was only really there for two seasons — really three seasons because the third season was COVID. So being there for two seasons and then being there not playing football (in 2020), it put a lot of things into perspective about the city,” said Hughes.
“I was at the worst part in all of history in all of the country and everybody was at their worst state (because of the pandemic) and (Regina) still felt like a great place to be.”
The 13-year veteran said he’s heard speculation that his poor production from 2021 was a result of his advanced age, but indicated that he still feels at the top of his game.
“I feel like I haven’t fell off at all. I’ve been training all this off-season preparing for a situation like this and I’ve been training with guys that are extremely younger than me. I’ve been training with the trainer that I’ve trained with for multiple years. If I didn’t tell anyone my age, nobody actually knew that I was 38,” said Hughes.
“My joints don’t hurt. I’ve never had a serious, major injury that ended my season. I don’t feel the things that other players feel when they go, ‘Ah, you know you need to retire when you feel such-and-such, so you’ll know when you know!’ I don’t know what that feels like. I don’t feel that, so I feel like I’m good for another five, six or however many years until I feel that sensation of, ‘Oh, I think it’s time for me to hang it up!'”