MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Dominique Dorsey, one of the smallest men in professional football, has returned to fill a big hole for the Toronto Argonauts.
The five-foot-seven, 170-pound speedster jogged onto the practice field in Mississauga Tuesday to the hugs of his teammates and relief of Argos management after a failed attempt to make the Washington Redskins.
Last season’s CFL outstanding special teams player is expected to be returning punts and kickoffs on Saturday night as the Argos (3-7) travel to Vancouver to take on the 4-6 B.C. Lions (TSN, 10 p.m. ET).
“It’s definitely a great feeling,” said the 26-year-old California native who is entering his fifth CFL season, third as an Argo. “Guys have welcomed me back with open arms and I’m happy right now.”
One of the few bright spots on a team that finished 4-14 last season, Dorsey signed a three-year deal with the Redskins last winter. He was among their final roster cuts at the end of pre-season and was expecting to land on Washington’s practice roster but was told on Sunday that wasn’t happening.
“It didn’t work out in my favour. They said one thing and did another,” Dorsey said of the Redskins.
“So, they lost out and I’m here now,” said Dorsey, who comes back in the option year of his contract with the Argos. “I’ve got to keep moving forward and push on to do what I do best.”
Despite missing five games last season, Dorsey led the CFL in all-purpose yards with 2,892. Most of that was picked up on kickoff, punt and missed field goal returns — 2,196 yards and two touchdowns — but he also added 410 yards rushing and 286 yards receiving.
Running back Jamal Robertson, who leads the team with 1,250 all-purpose yards through 10 games this season, said while he’s surprised Dorsey didn’t land a job in the NFL “it’s a great thing he’s here.”
“It’s hard to replace a Dominique Dorsey as a returner with his vision, his explosiveness,” Robertson said. “The only way to replace him is to have him back, so it’s perfect.”
Head coach Bart Andrus agrees.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Andrus said of Dorsey’s return. “We’re very excited.”
So far this season, punt returns have been a particularly weak spot for the Argos. Eight players have handled the duties, wracking up a CFL second-worst 363 yards, or 6.0 yards on average.
Last season, with Dorsey and Arland Bruce, who was traded to Hamilton earlier this summer after being suspended by Andrus for disciplinary reasons, handling most of the returns, the Argos were ranked first in the league with 1,111 yards, or 11.5 yards on average.
“It’ll be interesting to see how our return teams pick up now,” Andrus said. “All indications are that we’ll be a pretty good threat there now.”
In addition to punt returns, Andrus is looking at Dorsey to team up with Canadian Andre Durie on kickoff returns. The third-year Argo has handled the bulk of the duties in recent games and has the league’s third-best average at 26.1 yards and was named special teams player of the week two weeks ago.
“It makes it really tough (for the other team) in terms of deciding who to kick to,” Andrus said of dropping the pair back on kickoffs. “You pick your poison I think.”
Once Dorsey has a better understanding of the offence, he’ll also likely see some playing time at running back.
While not wanting to throw the fortunes of the remaining eight games of the season on Dorsey’s shoulders, general manager Adam Rita said he thinks the addition makes the entire team better.
“It takes more than just one guy to get it done, but he’s a special kind of guy,” Rita said. “He makes everybody block a little better and everybody hustle a little bit more because they know he can go to the house.”