A life in professional football isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, fame and glory. The road can be hard and dotted with potholes and dead ends. It can be occasionally cruel, too. Man, can it be cruel.
Cam Meredith, the former NFL wide receiver, officially welcomed aboard by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Canada Day, can offer up stories on every single aspect of it all.
“This is a game of opportunity and windows and circumstances,” the 28-year-old receiver explained in a chat with bluebombers.com. “There’s just so much involved that can impact whether you play longer or whether you are successful. Not all of that is under your control. All you can do is put as much into it as you can and whatever comes out of it you know you’ve given it your best.
“I would like to say the game gives back what you put into it. I’ve definitely given a lot to the game and I’m not quite ready to put it down.”
Rewind to 2016-17…
Meredith has just posted a solid second season with the Chicago Bears, pulling in 66 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games – including four contests in which he eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark.
Heading into the ’17 season as one of the club’s top targets, he suffered a knee injury in the third preseason game, tearing his ACL and MCL and part of his meniscus. Just like that, his year was done.
Still, the skills were obviously there and NFL teams were chasing the Westchester, Ill. product in free agency. The Bears signed him to an original tender contract in March of 2018, allowing them to match any offer that would come his way. But when the New Orleans Saints stepped up with a two-year offer sheet worth $9.6 million, including over $5 million in guarantees, the Bears opted not to match.
His knee, however, just wasn’t there yet and after a season in which he played in only six games, he was released. The New England Patriots jumped in with an offer in 2019, then added him to their physically unable to perform list in late August and released him in October of that year.
“I’m 100 percent in a better place physically now that I was (with the Patriots),” said Meredith. “Looking back now, I definitely needed that time to recover and time is precious in the NFL – the CFL, too – and if you’re not ready to play, other guys are.
“I’ve taken the last couple of years to sit back, enjoy time with my family and do the necessary therapy and treatment I’ve been doing like the lifting, the massages, everything. It’s been a non-stop 2 ½ year grind. I’d like to say it wasn’t for nothing because now I’ve got this opportunity to do something with it. I’m really, really excited, man.”
Earlier this week, on an empty football field beside the Winnipeg Soccer Complex, Cam Meredith ran routes and caught passes from Buck Pierce, the Blue Bombers offensive coordinator.
Overseeing the workout were GM Kyle Walters, Head Coach Mike O’Shea, Receivers Coach Kevin Bourgoin, Director of Health and Performance – Head Athletic Therapist Al Couture and Senior Director of Player and Public Relations Darren Cameron.
The Bombers had put Meredith on their negotiation list earlier this year and this was their first opportunity to see him up close and in person. But his connection to the team and to this city runs deeper than that.
Bombers Assistant GM/Director of U.S. Scouting Danny McManus and Meredith met a few years ago at a Saints camp. As the story goes, Meredith saw a guy in a Bombers golf shirt, and casually mentioned that his girlfriend was from Winnipeg. That story has some more layers to it now, naturally. Meredith has two children now with his girlfriend and five months ago, bought a house.
“It’s funny, I had never heard of Winnipeg before and now I’m living here,” Meredith said with a chuckle. “Once we started dating I came out here. I was in the NFL at the time and didn’t really know much about the CFL, but the more time I hung out in Winnipeg with her and her family, the more I became familiar with the game. So, I learned about the Bombers but never thought I’d have the opportunity to play for them. I said this would be perfect because I’m living here now, I have family here and I’m familiar with the team now. It’s really played out perfectly.
“That’s why I’m so grateful for Winnipeg and them giving me the opportunity to showcase my skills to a whole new fan base, a whole new league,” he added. “Hopefully I can make a name for myself and tear the field apart. I’m looking forward to that. That’s what it’s really about now: getting back to the game and playing ball.”