Being a three-time league all-star, and holding the career record for interception return touchdowns, still holds considerable weight for Byron Parker.
A day after being released by the B.C. Lions, the veteran CFL cornerback was on a flight to Montreal from his home in Atlanta Saturday evening after his agent, Dan Vertlieb, and Montreal GM Jim Popp agreed to a one-year (plus option) contract with the Alouettes. Parker went through a physical Sunday, and he will be introduced to the Montreal media at a news conference today.
The deal came together so quickly, in fact, that Parker scarcely had time to absorb the full disappointment of being released by the Lions. Parker and receiver Arland Bruce were both let go Friday, a day after the Lions announced a contract extension for quarterback Travis Lulay.
"It was very quick," Parker said. "I didn't have time to dwell on it. Benny (Lions head coach Mike Benevides) told me, and he's a man I respect tremendously. I didn't ask for an explanation. It's just the nature of the business. I've been around long enough to know there aren't any guarantees. It's just how it goes."
Parker, who turns 32 in March, joined the Lions last year after being released by the Toronto Argonauts. The coming season will be his ninth in the CFL since he came to Toronto in 2005 after being released by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Despite playing in four division finals with the Argos and the West Division final last season with B.C., however, Parker has never participated in a Grey Cup game. He believes Montreal, a perennial contender, might offer him another opportunity.
"Oh, yes," he said. "Any time you're around guys like Jim Popp and Anthony Calvillo, you know your chances are usually good. They (Alouettes) usually have the right pieces. Then, it's up to the players to perform. An opportunity is all you can ask for."
Parker does leave the Lions with some regret. He admits he didn't play well in last year's West Division final loss to the Stampeders, and he apologized to Lions fans later on Twitter, vowing to do better this year, if given the opportunity.
"My ultimate goal was to win a Grey Cup, and that didn't happen out there in B.C.," he said. "More important than that, I'm leaving a bunch of great guys who'd become friends and brothers. That's the heartache of being released -- not being with that team anymore."
Though he holds the CFL record with nine interception return touchdowns, Parker had but a single pick last season, bumping his career total to 29. He scored an apparent 10th career touchdown August 6 at Rogers Centre, when he picked off a pass thrown by Argo quarterback Ricky Ray and took it to the end zone. It was wiped out by an offside call, however. A second interception, Oct. 12 in Hamilton, was also nullified by a Lions penalty.
"Guys like me, Korey Banks and Ryan Phillips are victims of our own success sometimes," Parker explained. "You look at the interception total beside my name, and it says 'one.' People think, 'he didn't do anything this year.' Statistically, if I was a second or three-year player, that would have been okay. I had three potential picks. The top guy in our group had four (Phillips and linebacker Adam Bighill). But I'm in Montreal now, and I'm very grateful how things have worked out, so far."
Josh Bell, Gerard Lawson and Lin-J Shell will have an opportunity to fill the void left by his departure, and Parker is a very complimentary of their ability to do so.
"They're all great football players, and very well prepared," he said. "The Lions shouldn't miss a beat."
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