May 25, 2006

Carter steams after Als release him

Surprise cut was ‘performance-related,’ coach Matthews and GM Popp insist

By Herb Zurkowsky,
Montreal Gazette

Less than a week into training camp, quarterback Quincy Carter is out of the Alouettes’ picture. And Carter, who played in the NFL with Dallas and the New York Jets, wonders whether he was ever in it.

“This is a joke … an insult,” Carter told The Gazette yesterday afternoon, hours after the Als announced his release. “I was throwing all over the field, from either hashmark, with ease. And we were practising in (an indoor facility), so I couldn’t throw as deep as I wanted.”

Carter, who was on Montreal’s negotiation list, signed with the Als in early April and was attempting to make a comeback after a year away from the game. Training camp lasts only three weeks, consisting of two exhibition games, so the coaching staff relies heavily on practice performance. Quarterbacks in particular are charted extensively on their passes and reads to see if they understand the concepts of the Als’ offence.

Head coach Don Matthews said Carter’s release was performance-related. “Someone had to go. He was the obvious choice. He had the lowest grades.”

Carter, predictably, challenged that assessment.

“It was clear to anybody at practice, even my teammates,” he said. “You know where my talent was, even after a year off. I don’t know what to say.”

Carter claimed he had several conversations behind closed doors with general manager Jim Popp, during which he was told he’d back up starter Anthony Calvillo. The GM, advised of Carter’s statement, denied the statement.

“All players have to earn their spot,” Popp said. “I’ve never promised players anything. That’s not my style. Other than that, I’m not going to get into a he-said, she-said debate.

“This was strictly performance-related.”

Popp and his assistant, Marcel Desjardins, spent most of Tuesday afternoon and evening attempting unsuccessfully to trade Carter, calling every CFL team. When they failed, Carter said he asked for his release.

Most players who have been cut by a team usually fly home immediately, but Carter remained in Montreal yesterday, hopeful of being claimed by another club. This early in camp, that appears unlikely, although Carter is close friends with Calgary receiver Jermaine Copeland, a former Alouette.

No CFL team contacted by The Gazette expressed any interest in Carter. One club official even alleged that Carter has a serious marijuana problem. Carter was released by the Cowboys shortly after the start of camp in 2004 after failing a drug test, only to subsequently sign with the Jets. He claimed in an interview last week to being drug-free for close to two years.

Carter’s release leaves the Als with four quarterbacks – Calvillo, Nealon Greene, Marcus Brady and CFL rookie Scott McBrien. Greene, who played under Matthews at Toronto and Edmonton, appears to have the inside track at the second-string position, although the coach said this week no decision has been made.

Greene, acquired in a trade from Saskatchewan last month, said he’s not taking anything for granted.

“Nothing’s etched in stone,” he said. “This might be a good situation for me, but I still have to go out, understand the offence, make my reads and complete passes, just like everybody else.”

Although Brady has CFL experience with Toronto and Hamilton, he’s a year older than McBrien, 26, who probably earns barely more than the league minimum salary of $37,000.

“It’s a numbers game,” McBrien said. “There’s one less (quarterback) and I’m still here. That’s good news for me.”