Leading your hometown team to a championship would be a perfect sendoff that most professional athletes could only dream of, but for Winnipeg Blue Bombers star running back Andrew Harris, winning the 2019 Grey Cup and ending the team’s 28-year title drought has only made him hungry for more.
The Winnipeg native isn’t going anywhere as the Bombers announced this morning Harris has re-signed with the club on a one-year deal. He was set to hit the free agent market in February.
Harris, who originally joined the Bombers as a free agent in 2016 after seven CFL seasons with the B.C. Lions, will be 34 in April.
“I know I still want to play football and that was the biggest thing for me. If, for whatever reason, there wasn’t an opportunity to still play here then I was going to try and find it somewhere else. I’m happy that the club was still into bringing me back and having me be a part of this organization,” Harris told reporters during a Zoom conference call.
“After talking with Kyle (Mombers general manager Kyle Walters) and kind of talking about where we’re going to go with certain things, it was an exciting time for me and my family. I’m excited to get back at it with my teammates, my brothers and continue to wear the Blue and Gold.”
The Free Press also learned today that all-star linebacker Adam Bighill has agreed to renegotiate his contract for the 2021 season. He was scheduled to receive a $50,000 bonus today and again on April 15.
Bighill joins defensive end Willie Jefferson and quarterback Zach Collaros as players who have restructured their deals to provide the Bombers with some financial relief.
“I think you have to understand where the league’s at and where the teams are at. The dynamic has definitely shifted and changed,” Harris said. “At the end of the day, there’s still a love to play this game. It doesn’t really come down to the dollars and cents. It’s about being in the locker room with the guys and trying to put your best foot forward to run it back and go back to back. For me, everyone’s feeling effects on the financial side from the teams, to the clubs, to the league and we all have to kind of adapt to that.”
Harris dominated the last time he was on a CFL field in November 2019. In the team’s 33-12 thrashing of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to claim the silver mug, Harris ran for 169 yards and two scores en route to being named the game’s MVP and Most Outstanding Canadian. Harris wasn’t able to build off of that in 2020 with a cancelled season, but said it gave his body a chance to rest and recover.
Despite that, running backs in their 30s can only fight off Father Time for so long but Harris is determined to show he can go at least another round.
“Yeah, I’m confident. Even running around, just doing certain things and I went skating the other day and I still feel like an athlete… I always have this weird pressure before any season. Can I still catch? Can I still run? Can I still read (defences)? Can I still do the things that I do well on the field? That’s after a short five or six month off-season,” he said. “That anxiety and nerves are definitely going to be there leading up to this season and training camp. You know, that’s something that kind of fuels me is if I’m still able to do this. I’ve had that since I was 22, 23, 24 and it’s still there. It’s just something that’s part of my DNA and something that pushes me and drives me.”
If Harris had it his way, he would have committed to more than a one-year deal.
“I would’ve signed a five-year to be honest with you,” Harris said with a laugh. “I don’t know if you can see a 40-year-old running back or a 39-year-old running back but we’ll see. For me, I’m taking it year by year and I’ve always been that way. ”
Harris won the league’s rushing title the past three seasons and is 962 rushing yards shy from becoming the first Canadian to hit 10,000 in a career. It’s unknown if he’ll have a full season, or even a season at all, in 2021 to do so. The CFL has been silent on what it plans to do if the pandemic vaccine rollout doesn’t speed up.
While Harris, like everyone else, would like more clarity on what a football season could look like, he’s not throwing any stones at the league. He believes the CFL is being cautious in what they say and he understands why.
“I’m optimistic that there’ll be some sort of football. I don’t know if it’s going to be exactly how it was in 2019, but you know, I’m very optimistic that there will be some sort of football this year,” he said.
The Harris signing signals the Bombers will officially return the majority of its core players from the 2019 run. There’s still work to be done, though, as the Bombers’ pending free agents list sits at 17. The most notable names in need of new deals are kicker Justin Medlock and offensive linemen Patrick Neufeld and Cody Speller.
Wide receiver Kenny Lawler and kick returner Janarion Grant opted out of their CFL contracts in August after the season was cancelled, but the Bombers still hold their negotiation rights until free agency begins Feb. 9.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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