There was no surprise or astonishment when Canadian Laurent Duvernay-Tardif learned his time with the Kansas City Chiefs was over.
The Chiefs dealt the veteran offensive guard to the New York Jets on Tuesday before the NFL’s trade deadline. Duvernay-Tardif told reporters Wednesday he’d been talking with the Jets for roughly three weeks and felt comfortable enough about making the move to New York that he waived his no-clause with Kansas City to pave the way.
“When you look at the way things were going in Kansas City, the fact I wasn’t dressing for most of the games, it was an open conversation with the Chiefs,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “Of course, I had that no-trade clause so we had to come to an agreement with both the Chiefs and I and the Jets, we thought this was the best opportunity for me.”
The six-foot-five, 321-pound Duvernay-Tardif, a native of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., started 57-of-60 career games with Kansas City after being taken in the sixth round of the ‘14 NFL draft out of McGill. Duvernay-Tardif made his first NFL start in 2015 and his last with the franchise was its 31-20 Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 2, 2020.
But Duvernay-Tardif — who earned his doctorate in medicine and a master’s degree in surgery from McGill in 2018 — became the first NFL player to opt-out of the 2020 season. He left football to battle the COVID-19 pandemic working at a long-term care facility in Montreal.
Duvernay-Tardif rejoined the Chiefs at training camp this summer but suffered a fractured bone in his hand. He was active for the first time this season Monday night in Kansas City’s 20-17 win over the New York Giants but didn’t see any game action as rookie Trey Smith started at right guard.
Duvernay-Tardif said his desire to continue playing superseded his desire to remain with the Chiefs.
“When I opted out, I kind of promised myself I would do everything I could to get back on the field,” he said. “But as the season evolved, it became a matter of being in an organization that wants me and for sure the Jets wanted me.
“We’ve been in conversation for the past three weeks and I think it just makes sense for me to waive the clause in order to be part of an organization that’s building something new and something different and for sure I want to be part of it.”
Duvernay-Tardif has been recognized for his decision to put his football career on hold. He was a co-recipient of the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete, and was named ESPN’s Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian of the Year as well as one of Sports Illustrated’s 2020 Sportspersons of the year.
The 30-year-old is in the final year of his current deal but said his primary focus now remains playing football in 2021.
“I’m planning on playing this year, that’s for sure,” he said. “That’s why I am here today, because I want to play football.
“We’ll see how that goes for next year and the year after that. With football, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over my last eight years in the league, you’ve got to go one week at a time and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
The Jets (2-5) are third in the AFC East under first-year head coach Robert Saleh. Duvernay-Tardif said physically he’s feeling refreshed and is raring to get going with his new team.
“Actually, I feel in great shape probably because of the fact I didn’t play last year and I want to use that as an advantage,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of transitioning, learning the culture, learning the playbook, learning the system and trying to earn a job.
“In the NFL nothing is taken for granted or given to you so you’ve got to earn it.”
Duvernay-Tardif, a converted defensive lineman, said he left Kansas City with nothing but pleasant memories of his time there.
“Honestly, I feel amazing about my experience,” he said. “I would not be here today if it was not for the Chiefs drafting me back in 2014 so I’m really grateful to the organization.
“In my mind, the last time I played was winning the Super Bowl in Miami and that’s a pretty good way to end a career in Kansas City. Now it’s time for a new journey and I’m excited to be here.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2021
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press