By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press on January 17, 2024.
He’s entering his 14th CFL season and will be 38 years old when training camp begins but Stanley Bryant isn’t ready to retire just yet.
The hulking six-foot-five, 319-pound offensive tackle will return for a 14th CFL season and ninth with Winnipeg after signing a one-year contact extension with the Blue Bombers. Bryant was slated to become a free agent next month.
“I don’t think I’m in a position that my game is declining or anything,” Bryant told reporters Wednesday during a video conference. “I still think I’m one of the top-tier guys in the league and I just want to go out and continue to prove that.”
Bryant has earned plenty of individual accolades over his stellar CFL career. He’s been named a league all-star seven times and captured a record four top lineman awards.
The three-time Grey Cup champion has appeared in 203 career games with Calgary (2010-14) and Winnipeg (2015-19, 21-present) and been a starter in all of them.
Bryant was also a key part of a Bombers’ offensive line that allowed just 33 sacks (second lowest in the CFL) and helped Winnipeg’s offence lead the league in offensive points (31.7 per game), offensive TDs (62), net offensive yards (414.7), rushing yards (139.1) and stand second in passing yards (292.4).
The line also paved the way for CFL rushing leader Brady Oliveira (1,534 yards 5.9-yard average, nine TDs).
Winnipeg (14-4) finished atop the West Division and advanced to a fourth straight Grey Cup appearance before dropping a 28-24 decision to the Montreal Alouettes in Hamilton. It was the second straight heartbreaking championship loss for the Bombers, who were on the short end of a 24-23 decision in 2022 to the Toronto Argonauts.
Bryant said it took him a while to get over the loss to Montreal.
“I didn’t want to speak to anyone, I didn’t want to have any conversations about the game at all,” he said. “It was real tough “¦ and hurt a lot.
“After, I came to my senses and realized it’s just a game. We did lose but we could also prepare for next year and try to do the same thing “¦ and win this time.”
Bryant joined the Bombers as a free agent before the 2015 season. The native of Goldsboro, N.C., said he had no serious thoughts about hitting the free-market next month.
“No “¦ I knew Winnipeg is where I wanted to be,” he said. “I’m a lot older so there’s no real reason for me to try and move around and try to start something new somewhere else.
“I’ve done a lot here in Winnipeg and want to continue to build on the legacy.”
Bryant wouldn’t say how much longer he’d like to continue playing but added he’ll know when it’s time to hang up his cleats.
“Football is the only sport that you can’t continue to play once you’re done,” he said. “With basketball you could go out to the YMCA and shoot around.
“Hockey, which I don’t play, I’m pretty sure you can go out and get in a beer league and move around. But football, you can’t just go out there and play once you’re done. Once I heard that, it made sense to me and made me think longer and harder that you could still do it, you could feel like you can play so why not continue to play?”
Bryant and Canadian guard Pat Neufeld are the only starters from Winnipeg’s offensive to have re-signed with the club. Fellow tackle Jermarcus Hardrick, the West Division’s top lineman in 2023, guard Geoff Gray and centre Chris Kolankowski – the latter two being Canadians – are all slated to become free agents next month.
“I think we have a chance to bring everyone back,” Bryant said. “Hopefully the team sees it the same way and we can make that happen.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2024.