Angus Reid has surprised many people by extending his CFL career – himself included.
The B.C. Lions centre signed on for a 13th season and, possibly a 14th, on Tuesday after he finished the 2012 campaign wondering about his future.
"I went into last season completely prepared that it was my last year," said Reid after a state-of-the-franchise luncheon with media heading into the Lions' 60th season.
Reid signed a two-year deal – one plus an option. The Lions also announced defensive back Ryan Phillips signed a contract extension.
"I'm one of the very fortunate athletes," said Reid. "Very few athletes ever get to end on their own terms, particularly playing 13 years. You can do it after year four or five sometimes. But you go this long, generally, the management will show you the door."
When the season ended after a disappointing loss to the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL's Western Final, he felt he was looking around the team's B.C. Place dressing room for the last time and also contemplated retirement as he cleaned out his locker at the team's Surrey, B.C., training facility.
Although Reid spoke of his desire to return that day, he wanted to see if he was physically and mentally ready to handle the long off-season training regimen after having surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow and clean up debris on his left hand and right wrist.
Now, he is looking forward to helping the Lions train his replacement.
"I wanted to be involved in helping groom the next centre," said Reid.
General manager Wally Buono said the Lions are looking to replace Reid with Matt Norman, until now a guard, who excelled as a rookie while also taking much of his first CFL season off to pursue his teaching studies before returning for the Western Final.
The mentoring role was not something that Reid, who had to battle to keep his job in 2010 after dealing with a broken foot, was ready to accept initially.
"I had never taken a personal stake, because a few years ago I was still in the meat of my career," said Reid. "You wouldn't want to groom someone to take your job while you're still in the meat of it. But I'm nearing the end now, if not past my due date. ... Anybody that has a job for a long time, I think it's part of their responsibility to help mentor the next person to take over.
"So, when that time does occur, hopefully, it's a seamless transition."
Reid, a native of Richmond, B.C., anchored a Lions offensive line that allowed a league-low 30 sacks in 2012. He earned a CFL all-star nomination for only the second time in his career. He won in 2011, but not in 2012.
He took pride in the new deal after Buono, then the team's coach, had planned to end it after 2010, rendering Reid a backup that season.
"There was a time heading into the 2010 season that it was told to me that would be my last season and they were going to move forward," said Reid.
"It wasn't that I refused to accept that," he said. "It was, I just kept going with what I knew what to do, which was keeping working at my craft, helping out, and the opportunity arose for me to go back in there, and I made the most of it. And I proved that I could still play this game."
The 36-year-old was a 2001 first-round draft pick of the Toronto Argonauts out of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., but joined the Lions later that year after being dealt to B.C. by the Montreal Alouettes.
His new deal was announced at the swanky Vancouver Club, a much more posh situation than when he joined the Lions.
"I was traded, I was in Montreal and I came home, and I hadn't had a chance to tell my mom yet," he recalled. "She called, because she heard (about the trade) on the radio as she was coming home from Safeway. She nearly drove off the road, because she did a quick U-turn to go back to buy a nice, big roast of beef to have ready for my return."
Buono's said Reid's latest return "calms the waters" as the B.C. offensive line faces change at the centre position. The Lions also face turnover elsewhere on the offensive line.
Guards John Hameister-Ries (back, leg) and Dean Valli (knee) face uncertain futures after undergoing surgery to repair ongoing health issues, Jesse Newman is retiring, and all-star tackle Jovan Olafioye is contemplating a return to the NFL after the St. Louis Rams voided a contract last year because he was off his medication for hypertension and failed a physical.
Norman, a 24-year-old Chateauguay, Que., native out of the University of Western Ontario, did not practise regularly at centre last season. But Buono said the second-year pro has demonstrated that he has the proper "football I.Q." and temperament for the centre position.
Phillips will return for a ninth CFL season after earning league all-star honours in 2012. He has started 114 straight games, the longest active streak in the league heading into next season.
Phillips, 30, is a three-time CFL all-star who has helped B.C. win two Grey Cups (2006, '11).
Notes: The Lions will hold seven free agent camps this year. The camps are being held later, in April and May, because Buono believes that the quality of player is going to be better at that time. The club previously held camps in March, April and May and found that players it wanted attended later camps. ... The Lions GM is playing a wait-and-see game on the Feb. 15 opening of free agency. "Today, I don't know, and the reason I don't know is because I'm not sure what's going to be out there." The Lions have given the Montreal Alouettes permission to talk to offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine and defensive back coach Mark Washington about their vacant head coaching job. ... All B.C. assistants have been offered the opportunity to return. They must decide by month's end. ... B.C. attendance averaged about 30,500 in 2012, down slightly from 31,000 in 2011, said George Chayka, the team's vice-president of business. The anticipated drop in season tickets a year after hosting the Grey Cup was less than five per cent. Historically, he said, other clubs have experienced "a significant drop." ... The Lions sold 90 per cent of the 50 corporate suites for games at B.C. Place last season, and suite revenue has increased 158 per cent since 2008, said Chayka, noting the number of suites was expanded to 50 from 35. ... Sponsorships have grown 88 per cent since the club moved back to a renovated B.C. Place in 2011 from a temporary facility, said Chayka.