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By Ted Michaels, CFL Editor - Archive - Email
Tiger-Cats send Baggs packing
Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) - To use a football phrase, Stevie Baggs got blindsided.

The rush end, who was one of the most highly paid defensive players in the CFL, at a reported $150,000 a year, was released last week by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"It came as a complete shock," he told AM900 CHML News. "It's a part of the business, but I don't know what more I could have done as a player, given the circumstances of the schemes from last year. I'm the only player in pro football history to have played on as many teams as I have, so if anyone understands resilience and adversity, I do. That's part of the reason why I always say, humility comes before honor. The more you are humbled, the more honor comes your way."

Baggs, a graduate of Bethune-Cookman University, started his CFL career in 2006 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, then joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2008.

The 2009 season was Baggs' best in the CFL. His 12 sacks tied him for the league lead, which meant a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team.

In 2010, after being released by the Arizona Cardinals, Baggs signed with Hamilton, and in seven games had five sacks, three fumble recoveries and one interception.

However, the 2011 season was one to forget for the 30-year-old.

Under a new defensive system employed by defensive coordinator Corey Chamblin, Baggs at times dropped back into coverage instead of doing what he does best, rushing the quarterback.

Consequently, his production tailed off.

In 18 regular-season games, he had five sacks, and in a move that perplexed everyone at the time, he was a healthy scratch for the East Division semifinal versus Montreal.

He insisted his team's defensive scheme led to his low production.

"It was a huge factor," Baggs said. "People can see that my ability didn't change from 2009, when I led the league, to 2010. It's frustrating if you're not being given an opportunity to use your skill set to make things happen. I didn't want to broadcast that, or be a 'cancer' to the team, or throw my coaches under the bus. I was excited that new regime was coming to town, so I could showcase my skill set again. It's unfortunate. Maybe economics played a part in the decision."

Baggs also pointed out all seemed fine when he met with Tiger-Cat brass earlier this year.

"The word 'restructuring' never came up," he said. "I had a feeling it might have happened because I wasn't producing at a high level. But, when I met with them, they told me I was status quo. And that was from the president (Scott Mitchell) down to the head coach (George Cortez). I'm working my butt off, training down here in Atlanta, then I get the call. It's a bit of a shock, but I've climbed bigger mountains than this in my life, so I'm sure I'll land on my feet."

Despite denials from Cortez, the move clearly had a salary cap decision written all over it.

"We'd like to thank Stevie for his efforts both on and off the field, but we feel that it's in the best interests of our football team to move forward with different players on our defensive line. We wish Stevie all the best in his future endeavors," said Cortez, also the team's director of football operations.

Last month, Hamilton signed the biggest available free agent, receiver Andy Fantuz.

They also acquired quarterback Henry Burris from Calgary in a trade. Burris has a contract worth a reported $300,000 a year if he attains all his bonuses.

The Montreal Alouettes are rumored to be interested in signing Baggs, who remains confident he'll be back on the field in 2012.

"You're going to see my playing football somewhere," Baggs said. "I'm just happy to be healthy and strong. At this point in my career, if the game was beyond me, I'd let it go. I've made enough contacts and I know enough people in life to be able to leverage my stock outside the game. I know I have a ton of football left in me. I had a rough season last year numbers-wise from a sack standpoint. But, if you look at every other category, and watch the film, people can see I still have that burst and I can get the job done."

Baggs, who did a lot of charity work, wrapped up his conversation with a message for the fans.

"I feel like I've played for the two best franchises in the CFL from a fan standpoint (Saskatchewan and Hamilton)," Baggs said. "It's unfortunate that this happened, but it's a part of the business."

While the Tiger-Cats clearly made this move to dump a hefty contract, it would have been nice to see what type of season Baggs would have under new defensive coordinator Casey Creehan.

The Tabbies are starting the 2012 season without the services of Baggs and Justin Hickman, who has a banner 2011. Hickman tied for the league lead in sacks (13) and had 49 tackles. He recently signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

Tiger-Cat fans may have a reason to be worried.

TIGER-CATS SIGNINGS

In a bid to replace Baggs, the Tiger-Cats signed import defensive ends Angelo Craig, Dariis Powell and Marc Schiechl.

Craig, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound native of Cleveland, spent time on the Ti-Cats' practice roster last season after signing on Oct. 18. He was drafted by the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round in 2008 (244th overall) and spent time with the NFL's New England Patriots as well as the Green Bay Blizzard of the IFL.

Powell, a 6-3, 225-pound native of Waldorf, Md., suited up in one game with the Ti-Cats last season after signing on May 31. He recorded 36 tackles and 8 1/2 quarterback sacks at Fayetteville State in 2009.

Schiechl, a 6-2, 252-pound native of Lakewood, Colo., spent last season with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars after a record-setting collegiate career at the Colorado School of Mines. He holds the NCAA Division II career quarterback sack record (46) while his 70.5 tackles for a loss are the fourth-highest in Division II history.

Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter, on AM 900 CHML.


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