TORONTO — Corey Chamblin has his sack artist back.
Defensive linemen Victor Butler and Cleyon Laing return Saturday when Toronto (4-7) hosts the Edmonton Eskimos (7-4) at BMO Field. The two players, who’ve combined for 10 of the Argonauts’ league-high 33 sacks, come off the six-game injured list.
The six-foot-two 248-pound Butler had a CFL-leading seven sacks through five games before being hurt. He returns tied for first with three other players, including teammate Shawn Lemon.
“It shouldn’t be Victor Butler, it should be Victor The Artist because he paints a beautiful picture in terms of learning how to pass rush,” said Chamblin, Toronto’s defensive co-ordinator. “Seriously, that dude, if you watch his pass-rushing skills, he’s a pleasure to watch.
“He has perfected his craft.”
Toronto will need Butler and Laing at their pass-rushing best Saturday after putting Lemon (shoulder) on the six-game injured list. Quarterback Mike Reilly, the CFL’s No. 2 passer, anchors a solid Edmonton offence bolstered by the recent return of Adarius Bowman (injured list) and Derel Walker (Tampa Bay, NFL), who were 1-2 last year in receiving yards.
Edmonton has also allowed the second-fewest sacks in the CFL (19).
“I thought it was Aaron Rodgers, just a different jersey,” Butler said of Reilly. “He’s a hell of a competitor, he makes all the throws, he makes tremendous reads and his decision-making is unmatched.
“When you get a guy like that you can’t help but go home and just grin because as a competitor you want to play somebody at their competitive best. Iron sharpens iron so I look forward to getting out there and trading blows with Mike Reilly.”
Toronto last played Sept. 4 in a 24-22 road loss to Hamilton. Edmonton has dropped four straight, including back-to-back games to Calgary.
Butler, 30, had been out of football for two years and coaching the defensive line for a private high school in Dallas when Toronto came calling. An ‘09 fourth-round pick of the Cowboys, Butler spent four seasons in Dallas before bouncing between New Orleans, Arizona, Indianapolis and the New York Giants —receiving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s drug policy in April 2015 — before his contract was terminated.
“I was training and coaching and I hate coaching because it reminds me I’m not playing football,” Butler said. “I wasn’t getting ready to hang it up but I was flirting with the idea of getting a regular job.
“There was some interest from NFL teams … some guys kind of hinted at being a camp body and if you know anything down south you don’t want to be a camp body, you don’t want to just be a number. So when I got this call, I jumped at the opportunity.”
Coaching gave Butler a different perspective on the game.
“I had a boss, I got yelled at a lot,” he said. “I’ve always had respect for my coaches but I never knew what a coach went through.
“After being a coach, I get where the hat slamming and cussing comes from when you put in schemes and plays and they don’t go accordingly. I understand now what I’ve caused some of my coaches, how I’ve turned their hair grey and (why they) retired early.”
Butler’s impressive CFL start would suggest the former Oregon State star made a seamless transition to Canadian football. But Butler said that wasn’t the case.
“If this was four months ago (at Argos mini-camp in Florida) we’d be singing a whole other tune,” he said. “I wasn’t used to the yard off the ball, the rush lanes were different, the motions were killing me … it was like a dog chasing cars out there, I was biting on fakes, I was everywhere.
“Luckily I had guys who slowed the game down so I could adjust. I got an app on my iPad so I could watch film and my wife was probably sick of it because on date night she’s watching “Scandal” and I’m watching film. It kind of sucked but it helped me prepare me to be where I am today.”
Chamblin marvels at Butler’s pass-rushing ability.
“He just looks natural, he just looks smooth,” Chamblin said. “We went a whole hour (Thursday) trying to figure out why is it that he can slip through the B gap when other guys can’t?
“Why is it he can get on the outside when other guys can’t? It’s just his God-given gift.”
Butler is also quick on his feet. While discussing what he was doing before signing with Toronto, he deftly broke into a sales pitch to help boost ticket sales for a franchise averaging under 14,000 fans per game.
“Fans, if you’re out there, if you’re listening, come watch us play,” he said. “It’s pretty fun, it’s electrifying.
“You’ve got (receiver) S.J. Green catching one-handed passes, you’ve got (quarterback) Ricky Ray making some awesome throws. I make tackles from time to time. It’s fun, it’s pretty fun.”