Menu
@
May 10, 2019

“Coming back to Winnipeg was a no brainer for me.” | Matthews coming home

Chris Matthews of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers looks up into the stands during second half CFL action between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Winnipeg, Sunday, September 9, 2012. (CFL PHOTO - Marianne Helm)

Chris Matthews was just a wide-eyed kid back then, a 22-year-old with obvious physical gifts, but with just one NFL camp invitation and a stint with the Iowa Barnstormers on his professional football resumé.

It was 2012 and Matthews – a fresh-faced rookie from California and via the University of Kentucky, Cleveland Browns and the Barnstormers – arrived in Winnipeg simply hoping to find a football home.

He did that and then some almost instantly, earning a starting gig as a rookie, catching a TD in his first game in B.C. and then scoring the first TD in the history of IG Field in 2013.

And by season’s end, he was not just a household name in Winnipeg – becoming the first rookie in club history to lead the team in receiving with 1,192 yards on 81 catches – but was also named the Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Rookie.

Fast forward just over seven years and the Matthews that returns to the Bombers is now a polished 29-year-old receiver who starred in a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks and returned to the CFL last fall to help the Calgary Stampeders win a Grey Cup.

So, for the Bombers – who spent the winter looking for another big-play receiver to add to their offence – Matthews is like manna from heaven. He’s a massive target at 6-5, 230 and there aren’t a lot of miles on his tread. Consider that injuries and the fight for playing time limited him to 22 games over four years in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens, and his stint with the Stamps included just four regular season and two playoff contests.

“I’m still young,” said Matthews during a media conference call Friday from Los Angeles. “I know that probably in football eyes I’m old as dirt, but in regular life I’m still a young man.

“Me being in the NFL, I got to play and contribute to teams… unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay healthy at times. I think even though that’s seen as a fault, I think it’s a plus coming back to the CFL because I’m a lot fresher than a lot of other guys would be going into the CFL or being in the CFL a long time and trying to figure out if they could play any longer.

“I’m a fresh body and I feel like I have years to come and hopefully I can stick it out with Winnipeg until I retire. That’s my ultimate goal: to retire as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber. I want my name to be up there with Milt Stegall and Terrence Edwards and along with the other greats.”

Matthews referenced Edwards – inducted into the Bombers Hall of Fame in 2017 – more than once during Friday’s call, saying he was ‘extremely lucky’ to have played beside him. He kept in touch with Edwards, often discussing some of the key decisions he had to make in his career.

Interestingly, now some seven years removed from his first stint with the Bombers, he’ll now serve as a veteran voice for the young players in the receiving corps,  much the same way Edwards did for him.

“I definitely think I have the veteran mind to be able to help out the younger generation there,” Matthews said. “Bringing me in is going to definitely help them out so they can soak up as much information as they can. Also, my game – I still have a young body so I can actually tell them and show them at the same time instead of just trying to tell somebody.”

Matthews said there was interest across the CFL this offseason as he investigated one more shot at the NFL. But, now at 29, he also realized that door has likely closed as NFL squads look for younger and cheaper help.

“I understand the business side of it,” said Matthews. “I enjoyed my time (in the NFL), but I’m back in the CFL now and I said that from the time I got to Winnipeg until the time I left, that was probably the funnest football I’ve played in a long time.

“Coming back to Winnipeg was a no brainer for me.”

BLUE NOTES:

The Bombers were busy on Friday, also announcing the signings of two of their nine-player 2019 draft class. Officially coming aboard are defensive back Nick Hallett and defensive lineman Tariq LaChance.

Hallett (6-0, 195, Toronto) was selected in the seventh round (61st overall) after playing in 28 games with the Varsity Blues over six seasons. He was limited to three games last year due to injury, but in 2017 ranked fourth in the OUA with 60 tackles, adding one sack, two fumble recoveries, one interception and five pass break ups.

LaChance (6-4, 260, Manitoba) was selected in the sixth round (52nd overall) and is a product ofVincent Massey Collegiate in Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Rifles and Bisons.