Saskatchewan Roughriders sign veteran punter Jon Ryan to one-year deal

REGINA — Punter Jon Ryan has returned home.

The 37-year-old Regina native signed a one-year deal with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Tuesday. The six-foot, 217-pound Ryan returns to the CFL following 12 seasons in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.

“Growing up in Regina … I wasn’t dreaming of playing in the NFL and going to the Super Bowl,” Ryan told reporters during a news conference. “I was dreaming of playing for the Riders.

“At the end of the day, it was time to come home. It (his childhood dream to play with Saskatchewan) is coming true today.”

The Riders also announced that national punter Josh Bartel, a former Australian Rules Football player, was released after four seasons with the club and six in the CFL.

“This is the unfortunate business side of this sport,” Ryan said. “Everything I’ve heard (about) Josh is he’s a great guy … a great teammate and great story coming from Australia and playing for as many years as he did.

“The reality of the business is every single person to ever play pro sports took someone else’s job.”

Ryan began his pro football career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2004-05) before joining the Packers (2006-07). Ryan then spent 10 seasons in Seattle (2008-17) before being released.

He then signed with the Buffalo Bills, but was cut and didn’t play at all last season.

“It sucked,” Ryan said of not playing in 2018. “For a guy who’s played football since he was seven years old, played professionally for 15 years, all of a sudden when you’re not in it any more, it’s a little bit of a weird feel. You just want to be on that field.

“It was weird to watch football the way I watched football last year, almost hoping for guys to do poorly. Not hoping for injury but things like that, it was just a terrible way to have to watch football. I didn’t like it and I’m happy to be here.”

Ryan appeared in 191 career NFL games, registering a 44.7-yard punting average and 38.7-yard net average. He became the first Saskatchewan native to win a Super Bowl when Seattle dispatched the Denver Broncos 43-8 on Feb. 2, 2014.

He also became the first punter to throw a touchdown pass in an NFL playoff game, and first Canadian to do so since Washington quarterback Mark Rypien in 1993, when he hit backup tackle Garry Gilliam on a fake field goal during Seattle’s 28-22 win over Green Bay in the 2015 NFC title game.

Ryan remains the Seahawks’ all-time leader in punts (770), gross average on punts (44.9 yards) and net average (40.8 yards). He feels his pro football experience will be the best asset he brings to the Riders.

“I know what it takes to win,” he said. “I’ve been around a winning environment for a decade.

“I think that experience and knowing and understanding what it takes to win is what I bring to the locker-room.”

The Canadian Press

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