The Toronto Argonauts have turned back the clock and signed former long-time kicker and punter, Noel Prefontaine.
The 36-year-old Canadian returned to the double-blue via a trade with the Edmonton Eskimos on Tuesday before participating in his first practice Wednesday afternoon in Mississauga.
Heading to Edmonton is Canadian defensive lineman Etienne Legare, Toronto’s second overall pick in the 2009 CFL Canadian entry draft.
Edmonton also receives the negotiation rights to defensive back Damaso Munoz.
Prefontaine previously spent 10 seasons with the Argo’s before being dealt to Edmonton two and a-half years ago.
He was outspokenly upset at the time and had seemingly planned on spending the rest of his career in Toronto.
“When the trade happened, and the way it happened, and the people involved with it [at the time Rich Stubler was the head coach and Adam Rita was the general manager] it was personal and it was hurtful.” Prefontaine told the Toronto Sun at practice Wednesday.
“I was supposed to have a physical the next day … with a young pregnant wife, having my home here, being here so long, I was hoping they’d have given me a heads up. They knew what was happening and someone should’ve told me to maybe prepare for something. It was a total surprise.”
He had recently suffered a concussion and the Argos wanted to bring in former Indianapolis Colt, Mike Vanderjagt.
But Prefontaine returns to the franchise where he is second all-time in points (935) and punting yardage (57,246), while he leads the team in total kickoff yardage (36,265). Prefontaine also won the 2004 Grey Cup with the Argos.
He will immediately improve coach Jim Barker’s special teams. The veteran replaces Jamie Boreham, who suffered a hamstring injury in a win against Saskatchewan last Saturday.
“The opportunity to acquire arguably the best Canadian punter/kicker in the league was too good to pass up,” Argos coach Jim Barker said to the Toronto Star after practice.
Former teammate and long-time Argo linebacker Kevin Eiben weighed in on the kicker’s return to Toronto on the team’s website Tuesday.
“It is good to have him back,” Eiben said. “We lost a great kicker in [Justin] Medlock but ‘Pre’ is just so versatile. He is a great locker room guy and a great teammate so he should be a good addition to our team.”
Prefontaine is 21 of 25 on field-goals as an Eskimo this season. He averaged 43.1 yards per punt, while Boreham only managed 40.4 yards in Toronto.
Prefontaine even hit a career-best 57-yard kick earlier this year but was upset with the way he was used as a one-step punter in Edmonton.
“There was a lot of things said by the fans and in the media about how I punted. It’s unfair to me as a player because I’m just doing what I was asked to do,” he said to the Toronto Sun.
“The majority (of kickers) are two or three steps. The scheme we ran in Edmonton called for [one step]. It was uncomfortable … it was hard for me to play well.”
Prefontaine had completely changed his game and felt alone with the Eskimos.
“You wouldn’t hear me say anything if they’d protected me but there was never any protection. But that’s history … [the Argos] use a different scheme.”
Back on familiar ground, Prefontaine is thrilled to be back home.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with Barker and O’Shea and [Bob] Nicholson the new president. They were here early in my career. The people who are now in power here didn’t feel the same way as the other management felt,” Prefontaine said to the Sun.