HAMILTON — Craig Butler swears he won’t be showing off his Grey Cup ring in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ dressing room.
But the Canadian defensive back, who signed a three-year contract with Hamilton after spending his first three seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, promises he’ll bring his winning attitude to a team he feels is already on a roll.
“I want to bring some leadership to the team,” said the 25-year-old native of London, Ont., and former Western Ontario Mustangs star.
It’s probably best to keep the ring under wraps. It would only rub salt in a wound after Hamilton lost the championship game 45-23 to the Roughriders.
Butler was a big part of their success. He led the Grey Cup champions last season with 60 tackles and also had four interceptions and is happy to list his strengths.
“Experience. Versatility. Passion. I love this game,” he said. “It’s my job but I love it more than anything.
“I’m going to bring that to practice every single day and a winning attitude.”
Butler was among the three free-agent signings Hamilton unveiled Thursday. The others included: defensive back Brandon Stewart from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and offensive lineman Steve Myddelton from the B.C. Lions.
Hamilton has also signed import receiver Cary Koch from the Edmonton Eskimos and former Roughriders linebacker Abraham Kromah. The club re-signed Canadian linebacker Marc Beswick, the East Division’s top special-teams player last year, just before he was set to hit the open market Tuesday.
And prior to the start of free agency, the Ticats signed quarterback Zach Collaros, who spent the last two seasons with the Toronto Argonauts before being released by the CFL club.
But Butler was a big catch for Hamilton as well.
He acknowledged it was hard leaving Saskatchewan, the team that drafted him in the second round, 12th overall and where he got that Grey Cup ring.
But he said there were several factors that drew him to Hamilton, including the success they had last year in making it to the championship game. He points to the coaches, locker room, overall organization and the team’s new stadium that’s scheduled to open in July.
Butler has shown versatility on defence – four different positions since his university days _ and says he doesn’t care where he plays.
“I like winning. I mean I like wanting to win championships and that’s really my main goal,” he said. “Wherever they play me I’m happy with it. As long as I’m on the field and I’m making plays and contributing, I’m all good with it.”
Stewart and Myddelton also say they feel they’ve joined a winning organization.
Stewart, 27, who has spent the past five seasons with Winnipeg, also brings versatility to the defence. While he’s excited about playing with Butler, Stewart can’t wait to perform for for Austin and defensive co-ordinator Orlondo Steinauer, a fellow Seattle native.
“He’s going to make my game a lot better,” Stewart said of Steinauer.
The veteran says Hamilton is a good fit.
“And maybe (I’ll) bring a little attitude to the field, a little energy,” he said.
He started all 18 games for Winnipeg last year, recording 47 defensive tackles and 16 special-teams tackles and one interception.
Myddelton, 27, will add experience to an offensive line missing its centre and leader in Marwan Hage, selected by Ottawa in the expansion draft, and Peter Dyakowski, who will miss much of next season due to knee surgery.
“They have holes to fill, and that’s my job now,” said the six-foot-three, 305-pound native of Barrie, Ont.
He’s entering his fifth CFL season (3 1/2 with Calgary before he was traded to B.C. midway through last year). He says being close to home and playing for a well-respected coaching staff drew him to the Ticats.
`”`The success the team had last year under the adverse circumstances they had (playing at the University of Guelph), I think this team is headed in the right direction and I’m excited to be a part of that,” he said.