MONTREAL — Tyrell Sutton knows the Montreal Alouettes organization better than most, and after being away from the team for a few years, he is excited to get back to the place where his journey in the Canadian Football League began.
“It feels good. I feel like everything has come full circle and I have a chance to finish what I started seven years ago,” Sutton said to MontrealAlouettes.com. “… I think for my family’s sake, it was always a goal to try and get back here and if things didn’t work out, (I would’ve) tried to continue to play elsewhere.
“But it’s always been on my mind, even after being traded to BC, I think it was always on my mind to try and finish what I started here.”
Sutton and the Als have reunited after the team signed the veteran back to a contract on Wednesday.
Sutton spent the first six years of his CFL career as a member of the Als before a trade sent him out West to the BC Lions in 2018. Following a portion of the year with the Leos, Sutton signed a deal with the Toronto Argonauts last off-season, where he was able to work alongside Wilder in camp. However, his time with the Double Blue was cut short after the team released him before the start of the 2019 campaign.
That left the 33-year-old looking for a new home. He found one just up the QEW with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who signed Sutton to their practice roster mid-season. That move would pay dividends for the Tabbies, as Sutton would wind up making his way into the lineup in short order.
Once he was given the chance to start, he impressed, rushing for 85-plus yards in two of his four regular-season appearances. In Week 19 against Ottawa, he had 85 rushing yards and added on 64 yards through the air while hauling in all four balls thrown his way.
Sutton wouldn’t appear in the Eastern Final, but he would suit up for the Black and Gold during the 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw.
Despite the Ticats coming up short of the mark in the championship game, it wasn’t for a lack of effort from Sutton, as he rumbled for 86 yards on 11 carries.
Heading into the off-season, Hamilton let multiple running backs hit the open market, leaving Sutton to once again find a new landing spot.
“I wouldn’t say it was difficult, but I would say it was a learning experience,” Sutton said of the last two seasons. “The things that I’ve done have led me to this incredible transformation. Going from being here for six years to learning the adversity of sudden change; going from one team for six years to three in a year and a half basically.
“I’m about to be a father too so there’s a lot of things that are happening in the correct order that have put me in position to come back to Montreal and essentially play for the hometown team.”
The Alouettes have managed to completely overhaul their backfield this off-season. They had a two-back system at times in 2019, with William Stanback getting the lion’s share of touches with veteran Jeremiah Johnson providing relief for stretches. However, with the former off to the NFL and the latter reportedly mulling retirement, there was work that had to be done by Maciocia and the rest of the Als’ front office.
The first acquisition by the team was a big one, as they landed 2017 Most Outstanding Rookie James Wilder Jr., who was granted a release from the Toronto Argonauts on Nov. 25. Following the signing of Sutton, the Als now have a bonafide one-two punch that could impact a game at any time.
— James Wilder Jr (@IAm_Wilder32) February 20, 2020
With two men who were starters at their position on different teams a year ago, the Als have to decide on a lead back for the 2020 season, but Sutton is more interested in pushing his new teammate to be the best backfield in the league.
“Wilder knows what’s up, but at the same time, he knows I’m always going to build him up,” Sutton said when asked if he’s going in to compete for the starting job. “I’m always going to try and get the best out of him because the way I see it if I’m going to beat somebody, I’m going to beat you at your best; I don’t want to hear any excuses of why it happened, ‘I was this, I was that.’ I’m not going to give you that excuse. Going into camp, it’s not about beating him out, it’s about making this team better.
“We know that they had a great one-two punch in JJ (Johnson) and Stan (Stanback) last year and we’re just trying to emulate that and/or surpass that. If you see us competing, it’s to get the best out of each other and to make this team better.”
Sutton has been the lone addition on the offensive side of the football for the Als since the free-agency window opened on Feb. 11. They’ve brought in 16 bodies on defence and traded for kicker Tyler Crapigna.
The team lost DeVier Posey to Hamilton, leaving Vernon Adams with one of his more prominent targets from a year ago. Sutton and Wilder should help alleviate the pressure on the passing game, as both have the ability to rumble and catch the ball out of the backfield.
“We are extremely happy to be able to bring Tyrell back to the nest,” Alouettes general manager Danny Maciocia said in a statement. “In addition to being an adopted Montrealer, he wants to be a leader in the locker room, who also leads by example on the field.
“His performances at the end of the last season demonstrated that he wanted to be an excellent addition to our backfield.”
Change is inevitable in the CFL, as only a handful of players have been able to stay with the organization they began their careers with.
Sutton should bring stability to the Als’ offence. When asked about how many years he has left, Sutton said that he’s focused on the season ahead and will ponder his future after that. With a baby on the way, he’s more interested in the here and now and worrying about his family.
“It’s a great feeling not having to move my family, and two, being able to make the best decision for two other people involved,” Sutton said. “It’s been a huge 180 for me in the last year and a half, going from thinking only about myself to thinking about three other people; from being able to just jump across the country to any team I wanted to to trying to put down some roots for my family.”