The Saskatchewan Roughriders are left looking for a new leading receiver, and the CFL a new Most Outstanding Canadian as the Chicago Bears have inked receiver Andy Fantuz to a reserve/future contract today in Chicago.
The signing of the contract gives Fantuz a formal audition for the team.
Fantuz leaves the CFL after a career-high year for him, in which he caught 87 passes for a league-leading 1,380 yards and six touchdowns in 2010, and was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Canadian after helping his team to the Grey Cup game.
“It’s really exciting for me,” Fantuz said Friday at Halas Hall. “It’s a whole new avenue for my career. I’m excited to make that step and get the opportunity to try out for the Bears.
“I’m particularly excited about this organization because of all the people I’ve met and all the history behind it and the fan base. It’s something I’m really looking forward to.”
Fantuz, who grew up in Chatham, Ontario, has been playing Canadian-style football for the majority of his life, and is excited for the major adjustment ahead.
Not only is the level of competition higher, but Fantuz will be playing on a smaller field, with four downs instead of three, and one less man on the field.
“It’ll be a big difference and a big change for me,” said Fantuz. “It’s going to be a faster game. It’s going to be different. But being a football player, I’m excited for that challenge and I think I’ll relish it. I’ll be training for it and once training camp comes along, I’ll be ready to go.”
Fantuz will join the seven year veteran Defensive End Israel Idonije, who is also a Canadian player. Idonije started off his career in Grade twelve at Vincent Massey High School in Brandon, Manitoba before moving ahead to play for the University of Manitoba.
The Riders Front Office staff are now left with the task of finding a receiver to replace Fantuz, who led the CFL in receiving yards in 2010.
“It is always difficult when you lose one of your top players, but we do congratulate Andy and wish him all the best in Chicago,” stated Roughrider General Manager Brendan Taman.
“We knew this was a possibility and we will continue with our off-season plan to replace Andy,” added Taman. “We will monitor our options, both within the personnel we have, and with recruiting as we go forward.”
Fantuz also had NFL tryouts with the Bears, Bengals, Bills, Patriots and Steelers.