It wasn’t the trade itself that shocked Alex Suber.
The Toronto Argonauts newest defensive back, acquired from the Blue Bombers during Toronto’s bye week, lost both his starting spot and place in Winnipeg’s lineup after an injury in training camp. After starting every game over his first four Canadian Football League seasons, all of them wearing blue and gold, it was clear that a change was needed and welcomed for both sides.
The shock for the 28 year old was not if or even where he was dealt, but when – the day after Labour Day.
“I was only shocked because it’s [now] week 10,” Suber said after his first walk through in an Argonauts uniform. “I thought it was going to happen earlier. So I was kind of shocked because it happened so late, but I was excited.”
Excited as he was for a fresh start in Toronto, Suber’s mid-season trade meant a change of environments and cities on a moment’s notice. A straight swap of players this late in the CFL season, when rosters are mostly set in stone save for outright releases and NFL cuts returning to the league, is a rare occurrence. That situation could leave some players scrambling to make arrangements.
“To get moved during the middle of the season doesn’t give you much time to kind of figure things out.”
American players like Suber might face an added hurdle of transplanting themselves to a brand new foreign city with no advance warning.
“I’ve been in Winnipeg for five years,” Suber said. “That’s all I know in the CFL.”
Facing this kind of unknown, while part of the business of professional sport, is something that all athletes can empathize with at a certain level.
“I’ve never gone through a mid-season trade but that would be tough,” Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray said. “Guys come up here and get housing, they sign leases, they’re all settled in … To get moved during the middle of the season doesn’t give you much time to kind of figure things out.”
The CFL and its players’ association do have arrangements in the collective bargaining agreement to help ease players’ transitions to new teams, with some financial compensation involved. Suber said the team has put him up in a Toronto hotel as he gets used to his new surroundings.
Perhaps the most important part of making a mid-season transition as easy as possible comes from the players themselves. At this point in the season, it’s important to make a key acquisition feel as welcomed as possible into what is essentially is an extended family. For someone like Suber, after his first trade as a professional, the smaller environment of the CFL can help ease that transition.
“Most of the players in this league know each other, so [Alex has] got people here that I’m sure he knows that he’s played with,” said Argos general manager Jim Barker. “And obviously they have a place where they stay. We try to make it as smooth as possible.”
There are already some familiar faces in double blue for Suber, including defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke, who coached the Middle Tennessee State product for three years in Winnipeg.
“He’s played for Tim, so he knows the defence,” Barker said. “We expect him to come in and be a contributor.”
After not getting that chance all season in Winnipeg, Suber is expecting to do just that for the Argonauts down the stretch. That’s how he sees himself getting comfortable in a new environment.
“I’m just trying to get into this playbook and contribute as fast as I can,” Suber said.
“I just want to play football.”