Matt Nichols’ CFL season ended with shoulder surgery last week and now, as he prepares to help teammates from the sideline, he also faces the end of his current contract.
“It’s something that’s out of my control. I love it here, I’d love to be back but we’ll see how it all plays out,” the 32-year-old Winnipeg Blue Bombers pivot said Tuesday, meeting with reporters for the first time since it was announced he would not return this year.
“I feel like I’m in the prime of my career. I was having a career year and I expect to have a lot of good football in front of me.”
Nichols went down awkwardly when he was sacked by the B.C. Lions in a game in mid-August, falling on his throwing arm.
“It’s not like I hit the ground super hard or anything. I think my arm was just in a vulnerable position and I landed perfectly wrong on it,” he said.
He was initially put on the six-game injured list as the team hoped he could rehab and recover. But the healing didn’t progress as quickly as everyone had hoped, so the difficult choice of undergoing surgery was made.
“It’s nothing catastrophic, just something that needed to be fixed,” he said. “It’s unfortunate but I expect a full recovery.”
Nichols went through “a couple rough days initially” but with the support of teammates, coaches and his wife, who Nichols says “is not into feeling sorry for yourself,” he began focusing on helping his replacements.
He’ll work with QBs Chris Streveler and Sean McGuire for the remainder of the season.
“All I can handle right now is to try and coach up those guys as much as I can to make sure everyone’s on point every snap. That’s my job right now,” Nichols said.
Since being traded to the Bombers from Edmonton in 2015, Nichols has thrown 89 touchdowns versus 35 interceptions. Earlier this season he set a team record with 19 consecutive passes before being taken out of the game — a blowout victory over Ottawa —to rest.
He is hoping those stats help his case as his contract comes up for renewal, repeating how he felt he was playing the “best football of my life.”
“I don’t think that’s something that goes unnoticed. Who knows how that all plays out but right now I’m worried about just taking it one day at a time to get healthy and helping my team win.”
He tried to address a contract extension at the start of the year but it was sidelined amid the uncertainty of a potential players’ strike. Nichols hopes they can pick that up as soon as the season ends.
The timing of that depends on how the Bombers perform in the four regular season games that remain. After two straight losses and a slide in the CFL standings, the teams heads into Saskatchewan to face the Roughriders on Saturday.
Until the recent struggles, the Bombers were considered the class of the CFL and one of the favourites to reach the Grey Cup final.
Asked if the team can win the cup without him, Nichols didn’t hesitate.
“This team absolutely can. We have playmakers all over the field, guys that can change games,” he said. “We’ve proven we can beat anyone.”
Except in the past two weeks when they experienced a massive collapse against Montreal and then were demolished by Hamilton.
“We’re evolving and doing some great things but it’s just a matter of staying consistent,” said Nichols.
“We’ve had some very explosive quarters and some quarters we’ve had little lulls. Everyone has to take that next step and understand that at the end of the [regular] season everything ramps up and we need to be very detail-oriented.”