HAMILTON — Craig Butler begins his new start, by going back to an old stop.
The six-foot-two, 196-pound safety acquired in the off-season as a free agent will make his Hamilton Tiger-Cats regular season debut on Sunday in a setting too familiar, Regina’s Mosaic Stadium.
Butler looks to line up against the team that he played his entire three-year career for. He knows the Rider fan base and their passion well, leaving him with varying expectations of the reception he will receive when his name is announced.
“I hope it’s going to be a pretty positive reception, but I understand that I’m the enemy now. I get that and accept that,” he said.
“I don’t hold any grudges against the people that feel any ill-will towards me. That’s how it is, I have nothing but love for that city and organization that helped me get though my first three years,” he added.
This weekend, Butler will receive his championship ring that he earned as part of the Riders’ 101st Grey Cup win over the Ticats.
“I don’t know how that’s going to be. I hope that somebody directs me so I don’t just walk out there and watermelons are flying at me,” he joked.
“It’s not an individual thing, it’s a championship, and their team is the defending champions. I’m on a team now that’s looking to dethrone them.”
Though it is a championship rematch, the reality is that it’s only the first of 18 regular season contests that the team has ahead of them. With much of the narrative going into game one surrounding him, Butler’s perspective on the first match remains narrow.
“I don’t know what the magnitude is right now. It’s really what everyone else is making it out to be. I’m going in there and focusing on the task at hand,” he said.
“I’m not going back there to see my old friends, or to make good with anybody that I supposedly did wrong, I’m here to win a football game.”