The Ottawa Redblacks expect to have quarterback Jeremiah Masoli back fully healthy in time for the opening of training camp in May.
The team’s biggest free agent signing a year ago played just four games during his first season in the nation’s capital before suffering a devastating leg injury due to a late hit from former Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive lineman Garrett Marino. The setback cost Masoli the remainder of the campaign but his long road to recovery is almost at an end.
“He’s doing great,” Redblacks’ general manager Shawn Burke told 3DownNation at the league’s winter meetings. “He was up just before Christmas, in Ottawa, visiting the surgeons and our team doctor — got a clean bill of where he’s supposed to be at. Probably has about a month to six weeks left of some rehab just to get full strength around the leg but the repair is great.”
“He can have most of the offseason just to be a quarterback and work with receivers. He’s coming up to Ottawa as of this week for the entire offseason and we’re just excited to see him get back on the field on the first day of training camp.”
Masoli completed 84-of-126 (66.6 percent) pass attempts for 1,083 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions prior to his injury last year. The season-ending hit came late in the fourth quarter of Ottawa’s Week 5 loss to Saskatchewan, resulting in an ejection for Marino. The controversial d-lineman was later accused of making racist remarks toward Masoli and received a record four-game suspension for the incident.
The Redblacks originally hoped that Masoli would be able to return in 2022 but his surgically repaired leg became infected, setting the timeline back. With his recovery within view, the organization remains completely confident in the 34-year-old’s ability to return to elite form.
“I think everyone saw what he’s put on the field when he’s been on the field and he’s led teams to great seasons. Obviously, I’ve been a part of some of those teams,” Burke said, referencing his time with the quarterback in Hamilton.
“Just what he is to our organization. In the short time that he was on the field, which was just training camp and the four weeks, if you talk to any player or staff member within our organization, he rows the boat for our team. That’s what you want out of that position: a guy that leads a team, holds a team accountable and holds them to a standard. I think we went through part of the season where we didn’t have him in the room, when he wasn’t able to be there, and we missed that leadership.”
Masoli began his CFL career in Edmonton in 2012, but was traded to Hamilton the following year. He spent eight seasons with the Tiger-Cats, throwing for 15,555 yards with 80 touchdowns and 51 interceptions while rushing 252 times for 1,507 yards and 19 majors.
The five-foot-10, 215-pound pivot had his best year in 2018 when he threw for 5,209 yards with 28 touchdowns versus 18 interceptions while running 63 times for 473 yards and two touchdowns on the way to being named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Player. Masoli struggled with injuries in each of the next two seasons, but helped lead the team to back-to-back Grey Cup appearances as part of a quarterback tandem with Dane Evans.
Burke brought Masoli to Ottawa in his first major move, signing him to a contract that paid $432,000 in hard money last year. The hope was for the veteran signal-caller to turn around the franchise, but the team instead finished 4-14 last season with Caleb Evans and Nick Arbuckle at the helm.
That poor performance led to the firing of head coach and offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice prior to the end of the season. Interim head coach Bob Dyce was ultimately hired for the full-time in December, but Masoli’s status as franchise quarterback was never questioned during the hiring process.
“That was reinforced by all the people that went through the interview processes as the head coach. I can’t say one that was sitting there saying: ‘I don’t think I can live with Jeremiah Masoli,'” Burke explained. “Most importantly, that’s what Bob [felt.] Bob got to see what I’m talking about firsthand through the year and who Jeremiah is.”
For Dyce, knowing that Masoli was still in the fold was a major comfort when accepting the bench boss job.
“This is a quarterback-driven league and so knowing that Jeremiah is ahead of schedule and going to be ready for the season, I was ecstatic,” Dyce told 3DownNation. “Because as I worked through and talked through things in my interview, Jeremiah was the guy that I saw as a quarterback of the Ottawa Redblacks.”
The new head coach expects big things from Masoli now that he will be paired with offensive coordinator Khari Jones, but sees the largest effect of his return coming off the field. Echoing his GM’s sentiment, Dyce believes many of the Redblacks’ struggles can be traced back to his No. 1 quarterback’s empty locker.
“When you look at some of the challenges we faced last year, I think part of it was the fact that Jeremiah wasn’t able to be around with his injury and he’s such a big part of the leadership group of that team,” he explained.
“I think maybe a few players lost confidence when he wasn’t there and around. Knowing he’s back for the season, it’s like I said early when I got this job: ‘This isn’t a reclamation project.'”