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QB Dominique Davis says 'I can be their guy' as Redblacks say goodbye to 2019

Dominique Davis wants to be the starting quarterback for the Ottawa Redblacks next season.

Fresh off a disappointing campaign — the team finished with a 3-15 record — Davis, who has a year remaining on his contract, said Ottawa has indicated it will bring him back in 2020.

“I’m pretty sure some things will change,” Davis said on Sunday as the players finished up medicals and exit interviews and cleaned out their lockers at TD Place. “But I’ll come here to compete. I want to show the team, the front office and the city I can be their guy and lead the way. I had a lot of battle wounds, but all scars are good scars. I’m going to learn from it and it’s going to help me in the long run.”

The team re-signed the 30-year-old Davis to be their starting quarterback in January, with last year’s starter Trevor Harris going to the Edmonton Eskimos in free agency. It didn’t go as planned — for Davis or the Redblacks. Davis completed 200-of-312 passes for 2,216 yards in 10 games — with just five touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also rushed for six touchdowns. The offence — whether it was with Davis, Jonathon Jennings or Will Arndt standing behind centre — was mediocre for much of 2019.

“It wasn’t the best I could have played,” said Davis. “They gave me an opportunity to be the starter. I still feel like I’m their guy, I can right this ship. It’s not in my hands right now, it’s up to (GM) Marcel (Desjardins) and the front office.

“As far as the team, it’s definitely not where we want to be. We have a bunch of good guys in this locker room that busted their ass every day, we just couldn’t come up with results on game day. But, hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s how football is. You saw Toronto win the Grey Cup (in 2017), they had the same issues. Stick together and keep working hard. Football is a game of inches. At the end of each season, there’s only going to be one happy team.”

In the off-season, Davis said he wants to bulk up. He’s also going to continue meditating, which helps, he said, with peace of mind and “staying in the moment.”

Arndt, who started three games in Davis’ absence late in the season, has another year remaining on his contract and says 2019 provided him with some valuable lessons.

“I’m going to come back bigger, faster stronger, a smarter, more experienced person and I’m looking forward to putting that to work,” he said. “Even though the results don’t show it, experience is sometimes the only way to get better. I have the confidence going forward; if you put me in there, I’ll be able to handle it. I’m looking forward to coming back next year with an edge. I know a lot of these guys are as well — we’ll be better. Football is important to me. This year was a disappointment, I’m looking forward to putting in the work to correct it.”

While the Redblacks have a lengthy list of potential free agents — they carved into that list Friday when they announced that Canadians Brad Sinopoli, Nigel Romick, Alex Mateas, JP Bolduc and Brendan Gillanders had signed two-year deals — there are still a few key players returning, guys who want to be part of fixing what went wrong in 2019.

“I haven’t been though something like this since like 1998 when I was in little league,” said defensive back Corey Tindal. “It’s like coach (Rick) Campbell says, ‘It’s hard to win football games.’”

Punter Richie Leone had a terrific season, along with the punt coverage unit. The 27-year-old averaged 48.4 yards on punts.

“Individually, I did some better things (this year) as far as being more consistent,” he said. “Statistically, going out second in gross punt average (Saskatchewan’s Jon Ryan was first) and first in net says a lot about coach (Bob) Dyce and the cover team. I’m grateful for them, those are the guys that make it happen. Being first in net, that’s what I hang my hat on.”

Asked if would be back, the potential free agent said: “We’ll see what happens, I want to be back here. I love playing for coach Dyce, I love playing for Rick, I love this locker room. I think we can set records around here with the punting game.”

Defensive back Sherrod Baltimore, at times removed from the starting lineup, is another potential free agent.

“This is where I want to be, but we’ll see how things go into free agency,” said Baltimore. “I feel like I can do my job. I feel like I’m an all-star, I feel I can be a top-tier corner in this league, but I have to be on the field to do that. Mr. Marcel, I have a good relationship with him. I have nothing bad to say about him. We’ll see what happens in February.”

Baltimore is also one of the few Americans who stays in Ottawa year-round, joking “I’m an Ottawa native now.”

Receiver Nate Behar, a 2017 fifth overall draft pick by Edmonton and former Carleton Ravens star, was an off-season signing who hopes to be back.

“I want to be here,” he said. “I’d love to be part of turning this around, get it back to the way it was — the way I watched it (while I was playing university).”

While he was in the lineup much of the season, the statistics don’t show much — he had 16 catches for 169 yards.

“To be a receiver, you have to be a confident guy,” he said. “You’re hopeful of what’s going to happen. It’s a dependent position that things have to go right for everybody to get their targets. It’s tough, it’s frustrating, but it’s motivating, too. I’m young, I’m only 25, I know there’ll be time. Brad (Sinopoli) tells me, ‘Hey man, it took me until my fourth or fifth year.’ Knowing that helps. I know what I can do when the opportunities are there. I’ve been able to do some things in practice that I can’t wait to translate into a game.”

He believes there are better days ahead for this team: “We all look to each other after a game and say, ‘How is this happening?’ We know what we have here, there are players who can play, there are ballers who can ball. I have faith that it will come around.”

SAM linebacker Anthony Cioffi’s contract is up as well. He’s hopeful for an NFL opportunity, but also wants to be part of the solution here.

“I love Ottawa, I love the team, the atmosphere. I’d love to stay here,” he said. “They gave me that first opportunity and I’m forever grateful. You learn a lot, you develop as a player because of the adversity.”


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