Darian Durant thinks he’ll be fine in unfamiliar territory.
The veteran quarterback signed a one-year contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday to be the backup to starter Matt Nichols.
It’s been a long time since the 35-year-old headed into a season in that role. His 12-year CFL career includes 11 seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and last year with the Montreal Alouettes.
“I don’t think it’ll be difficult at all,” Durant said Sunday in a conference call from Toronto.
“When I first started my career, I was a practice-squad guy, then I was a third-stringer, then I was a backup, so I had to work my way up.
“I think that everybody on a team has a role. I’m looking at this as, ‘Where can my talents be best served?’ “
The answer for him is offering his experience on and off the field.
“I just want to come in and help out Matt as much as I can and just have a role with the team, whether it’s in meetings, whether it’s short yardage,” Durant said.
“Whatever the case may be, just come in and bring my veteran presence and just try and bring a Grey Cup to Winnipeg.”
Durant said the Bombers were one of three teams that approached him since the Alouettes released him last week. He was reportedly about to receive a $150,000 bonus and the Als had tried to restructure his three-year contract.
The five-foot-11 North Carolina product began his CFL career in 2006 with the Roughriders. He was a backup for the team’s 2007 Grey Cup championship, led them to title games in 2009 and 2010 and won as the starter in 2013. He suffered an elbow injury in 2014 and tore his Achilles tendon in the first game of 2015.
He played 15 games in 2016, but the injury-riddled ‘Riders went 5-13 and Durant was traded to Montreal in January 2017 after a new deal couldn’t get done.
He wasn’t the saviour for the floundering Alouettes.
Montreal finished 3-15, losing its last 11 games. Durant threw for 3,233 yards in 15 games, but his 16 interceptions eclipsed his 15 touchdowns.
“Looking at the locker-room in Winnipeg, I just wanted to get into a work environment where I was happy every day and I saw this as that opportunity because the past couple years have been very troubling and it’s been a tough time for me,” Durant said.
He declined to go into specifics about what went wrong in Montreal.
“It’s just been a tough time over there,” Durant said. “There have been so many coaches, different guys in and out of the lineup.
“It’s hard to build that stability when there’s so much change. I love what (Montreal general manager) Kavis (Reed) is doing. I think he has those guys going in a great direction, but I just saw going elsewhere as a better fit for me at this time.”
Durant said he has spoken to Nichols and told him he’ll support him any way he can.
Nichols took over as Winnipeg’s starter in July 2016 and has led the team to a 21-9 record and back-to-back playoff appearances.
Last October, Nichols broke the ring finger on his throwing hand and also suffered a strained calf. He missed the final regular-season win (12-6), but played in the West Division semifinal loss to Edmonton.
In a press release after signing Durant, Bombers GM Kyle Walters said the team wanted to “solidify depth” behind Nichols.
Backup pivot Dan LeFevour is a pending free agent and the team has Dominique Davis under contract, as well as prospects Philip Nelson and Josh Straughan.
Despite having to pack his bags for a new football home again, Durant said he never thought about retiring.
“Not at all,” he said with a chuckle. “I feel like the body feels good. I feel like I have a lot of football left in me so it never crossed my mind.”
Durant will begin the 2018 season with 31,740 career passing yards on his resume, ranking him 14th on the league’s all-time passing yards list.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press