TORONTO — Duron Carter is back in the CFL for a simple reason: To play football.
The son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter spent last season on the practice roster of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. Carter says while he enjoyed his time in Indianapolis — and the challenge of facing Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis daily — he rejoined the Montreal Alouettes to be more than a practice player.
"I loved Indy, they gave me a great opportunity and I learned a lot," said Carter, in town recently to participate in a CFL promotional photo shoot. "They just had a different plan for me than I wanted.
"There was a lot of politics and everything that I didn't realize existed. I just wanted to play football and Montreal allows me to do that."
The six-foot-five, 220-pound Carter began his pro career in Montreal in 2013, amassing 124 catches for 1,939 yards and 12 TDs over two seasons. He had 75 receptions for 1,030 yards and seven TDs his final season before signing a three-year, US$1.575-million deal with Indianapolis, although just $25,000 was guaranteed and there was no signing bonus.
Carter finished the pre-season with nine catches for 126 yards but landed on the practice roster. He became a free agent in January when Indianapolis didn't offer him a future contract.
"In practice, I was taking a lot of the earlier reps, the first-team reps, and then when we got to pre-season it seemed like I was being sort of held back," Carter said. "The Colts didn't have anything against me or anything, they just felt I was a future plan.
"It wasn't my time, I guess."
This will be Carter's time to shine in Montreal. He signed a one-year deal that reportedly makes him the CFL's highest-paid receiver at around $250,000.
Carter gives veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn another big-play receiver along with veteran S.J. Green (71 catches, 1,036 yards, three TDs) and Kenny Stafford (47 catches, 732 yards, nine TDs with Grey Cup-champion Edmonton). There's also CFL rushing leader Tyrell Sutton (1,059 yards) who had 43 catches for 334 yards.
A more consistent offence would help Montreal return to the playoffs. The Alouettes (6-12) were last in the East Division last year, scoring just 388 points, second-fewest behind Winnipeg (353).
Carter's top goal is helping Montreal win. But he'd also like accumulate more receiving yards than Edmonton's Adarius Bowman, who had a CFL-high 1,456 in 2014 before finishing second to Calgary's Eric Rogers (1,448) last year with 1,304.
"My goal, if I had a goal, is just beat Bowman," Carter said. "He's just always at the top.
"I want to lead the league in catches, touchdowns and yards."
Carter could return to the NFL after this season but says he's not thought that far ahead.
"I see myself playing against Winnipeg (on June 24) my first game, that's all I can see," he said. "If the NFL happens, it happens.
"If it doesn't and I finish my career in the CFL, I think I'll have had a pretty good career. It's not about money, being famous or being down south and being on TV. Man, I just want to play ball and that's what I'm trying to do."
Carter believes he returns to the CFL a better receiver than he was in 2013.
"One-hundred per cent," he said. "I went up against, I wouldn't say better, but a different style of competition and I had great coaches in Indy.
"I'm older (25), I feel like I'm faster. I'm bigger. I feel pretty good about what's going to go on this season."
He feels especially good about former Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo becoming Montreal's offensive co-ordinator. Calvillo played during Carter's first season in Montreal but only appeared in seven games before suffering a season-ending concussion that led to his retiring and becoming a coach.
"There's no one in the world who knows offence in the CFL better than Anthony Calvillo," Carter said. "He has a really calm demeanour in every situation . . . and I feel that composure will definitely put us in the right situations."
And should opposing defensive backs interfere with Carter this season, Montreal head coach/GM Jim Popp will be allowed to challenge it under new CFL rules. That wasn't the case in 2013 when Hamilton defensive back Evan McCollough made contact with Carter in the end zone late in the Tiger-Cats' 19-16 semifinal win.
No call was made and Popp — then the interim head coach — couldn't challenge. The CFL later admitted a penalty should've been thrown, which would've given Montreal possession at the Hamilton one-yard line.
"I still talk about that," Carter said. "Man, that was the worst call ever."
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press