New punter Jon Ryan believes winless Ticats have a ‘great shot’ at winning the Grey Cup

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats may be winless five weeks into the 2022 CFL season but the organization’s newest player believes they could be on top of the league before it’s all over.

The Ticats announced the signing of Canadian punter Jon Ryan on Sunday and in his first address to the Hamilton media, the 16-year pro football veteran shared that his reasons for choosing the black and gold over a number of other offers were two-fold.

“I wanted to go somewhere where I was wanted and they made it clear to me that they wanted me,” Ryan said. “I think we have a great shot at the Grey Cup here and that’s why I came back, to win the Grey Cup. I think that I can help the Ticats do that.”

It’s no surprise that Ryan wanted to go somewhere he was desired after an unceremonious departure from his hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders this offseason. The 2019 West Division all-star averaged 48.1 yards per punt over two seasons with his childhood team but was let walk in favour of young Global player Kaare Vedvik for salary reasons, despite a willingness to play for close to the league minimum.

As a result, he was denied a chance to live out his dream of winning a Grey Cup at home with the Riders in Regina this season. Despite their record thus far, Ryan now believes his best shot at some championship vengeance is with the Ticats.

“I’ve watched all four of their games and they’re not an 0-4 team, that’s for sure,” Ryan insisted. “They’re a good team and, as I said today, we’re one game out of first. That’s how you have to approach it and we’re just gonna, as you say, take it one game at a time. But going forward, I really like our chances.”

Prior to his time with the Riders, the University of Regina product kicked for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before playing 191 games over 12 seasons in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, where he won Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tiger-Cats’ head coach Orlondo Steinauer said the team had been pursuing Ryan for quite some time, but the timing wasn’t quite right until this week.

“You can’t just make magic happen. Sometimes you have to wait and the timing has to be right,” he explained Sunday. “Jon was open to coming up. We’ve had a few discussions and once he felt like he was in kicking shape to come up — he understands what it takes, obviously, to kick in this league and the National Football League — he wanted to get back on the field and we were able to flip the ratio there.”

Ryan brings a level of talent and winning pedigree to the kicking game which Hamilton has sorely lacked in recent years. At 40 years old, he also offers a wealth of experience unrivalled by any player in the CFL, though Steinauer will not place any pressure on the punter to be a vocal voice in the locker room.

“He seems like a levelheaded, fun guy and I just want him to be himself, whatever that is,” Steinauer said. “If that’s a leader, great. If it’s just to punt the ball and be a resource for folks, that’s great. No expectations except for Jon to be himself.”

For his part, Ryan is already enjoying the atmosphere in Hamilton and getting to know his new teammates.

“I’ve already been called grandpa a few times so I expect more of that, but it’s all in fun,” he laughed.

It won’t all be fun and games if the Ticats are to get back in playoff contention and live up to Ryan’s Grey Cup aspirations, however. The long road to relevance will begin Saturday when Hamilton takes on Ottawa in a battle of the CFL’s last two winless teams.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.