- Free Agency
A year ago, Anthony Gaitor was a player without a team, simply waiting for a phone call and an opportunity.
It was the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who stepped up, looking to add a veteran piece to their defence and their secondary. And while his addition last February hardly led to big, bold headlines across the Canadian Football League, it was quietly a shrewd one for a club that used his versatility to help bolster a defence that had become a force by season’s end.
And according to Gaitor – who signed a contract extension Wednesday that will take him through the 2020 season – there’s much more work to do.
“We’ve got some unfinished business we all want to take care of,” Gaitor said from his off-season home in Miami. “We did a lot of growing last year as a defence and we’ve just got to build on. Whoever we bring in, whoever we re-sign, we’ll build on things and go from there. We did that last year when we had some changes and some injuries. We’ll make it work.”
Gaitor’s versatility made him a valuable piece for the Bombers last year. He started games at both halfback and strong-side linebacker – the last seven regular season and playoff contests at the latter – and made plays from both spots. He missed eight games in the middle of the season, but did suit up for 10 – starting nine – and racked up two interceptions (one for a touchdown), two sacks, one pass knockdown and one fumble recovery, also for a score.
Those are productive numbers similar to what he posted in BC, parlaying a solid 2016 season with the Lions into a look-see with the New Orleans Saints. He returned to the Lions in 2017, but was part of a purge when Ed Hervey’s new regime took over in BC.
“When I got released by the Lions it had nothing to do with my performance,” said Gaitor. “I always believed in myself and knew what I could bring to another team. The only thing I was concerned about is when you get released, other teams really don’t know the reason. But I never questioned what I can do. This is an organization I really want to be a part of and I feel like I found a home being there. I loved everything about Winnipeg and when the opportunity came to sign an extension, there was no hesitation. I can see myself there long term.”
Gaitor’s goal now is to make an even bigger impression on defence. Heck, with his versatility he might even be tempted to pester offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice or special teams coordinator Paul Boudreau for even more work.
“That’s something I’ve always done since I was little. I’ve always played multiple positions on both offence and defence,” said Gaitor. “Going through high school I started off playing receiver, then running back and then by my senior year I was playing defensive back. In college it was the same thing – I was never stuck at one position. I always say I’m not just a defensive back, I’m an athlete, and I’ll compete wherever you put me at.
“If they need me, I’m there,” added Gaitor with a chuckle. “I’m ready for anything. I’m available.”