June 22nd, 2024

Argos-Riders contests to be family affair for Toronto receiver DaVaris Daniels

By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press on April 11, 2024.

Toronto Argonauts wide receiver DaVaris Daniels (80) catches a pass as Ottawa Redblacks linebacker Frankie Griffin (28) defends during fCFL action in Toronto, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. Daniels already has July 4 and Aug. 22 circled on his calendar. Those are the dates when Daniels and the Toronto Argonauts will face the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the team Daniels' father, Phillip, is in his first season as defensive line coach.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats remain Toronto’s biggest CFL rival but receiver DaVaris Daniels has the Argonauts’ dates with the Saskatchewan Roughriders circled on his calendar.

Toronto visits Regina on July 4 and hosts Saskatchewan on Aug. 22. Those games are significant to Daniels because his father, Phillip, is in his first season as Saskatchewan’s defensive line coach.

“I never thought I’d ever be in this position playing against my dad,” Daniels said with a chuckle. “It’s a wild dynamic and I think the wildest part of it is my mom has to figure out what colours she wants to wear when we play against each other.

“I don’t know how she’s going to do it. There’s a lot of pressure on her.”

Phillip Daniels joined Saskatchewan following four seasons as a coach with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles (earning a Super Bowl ring in 2018) and a year in Washington’s front office. Daniels also played 15 seasons as a defensive lineman with Seattle (1996-99), Chicago (2000-03) and the then Redskins (2004-10).

And with football as a common bond, DaVaris Daniels has often leaned on his father.

“It’s exciting for the game, I think it’s exciting for the league and it’s exciting for our family,” he said. “I think (coaching in football-mad Saskatchewan) is the best kind of atmosphere and environment he needs to be introduced to the CFL.

“Obviously he’s on the opposite side of the ball so when I’m on the field I won’t get to watch as much but when we’re not playing them I’ll watch that D-line and see what they’re doing.”

But his father won’t be the only familiar face Daniels will see with Saskatchewan. Rookie head coach Corey Mace is Toronto’s former defensive co-ordinator, while Daniels also has a history with offensive co-ordinator Marc Mueller, secondary coach Josh Bell and receivers coach Marquay McDaniel.

Also, running back A.J. Ouellette, who ran for 1,009 yards last season with Toronto, joined the Riders in free agency.

“I’m just excited for my dad because of the coaching staff they have,” Daniels said. “I know these guys and they’re all great people so I couldn’t be happier with who he’s around and the atmosphere he’s walking into after his NFL career.”

Daniels, 31, is entering his fourth season in Toronto and eighth in the CFL. The six-foot-one, 203-pound former Notre Dame star had 52 catches for a career-best 1,009 yards with eight TDs last season and was a big part of the 2022 Grey Cup champs posting the best regular-season record in their history (16-2).

But that accomplishment became moot after Montreal upset Toronto 38-17 in the East Division final en route to winning its first Grey Cup since 2010.

“It was a bitter pill,” Daniels said. “Even to this day, it doesn’t feel real given the season we had and the players and lockerroom we had.

“It’s not something that’s easy to get over but I’m not sure we want to get over it because of the motivation it brings to this season.”

Toronto’s 2024 squad will differ vastly from last year’s.

In addition to the coaches and Ouellette, Toronto lost defensive linemen Dewayne Hendrix and Brandon Barlow, cornerback Jamal Peters (all to Hamilton) and kick-returner Javon Leake (Edmonton) in free agency while releasing kicker Boris Bede (Edmonton) and linebacker Adarius Pickett (Ottawa). One positive, though, was Canadian kicker Lirim Hajrullahu’s return after three seasons (2020-22) in the NFL.

Toronto has finished atop the East Division the last three seasons but will be considered an underdog by many this year.

“Please do,” said Daniels. “No question, I think it’s easy to look at who left and how big they were on our team … but I also think many people forget how deep we were last year, especially on defence.

“That’s something we’re carrying into this season, that chip on our shoulders.”

While others left Toronto, Daniels signed an extension this off-season to remain through 2025. The CFL’s 2016 top rookie said it was an easy decision to continue grinding with the likes of linebacker Wynton McManis, safety Royce Metchie and defensive back DaShaun Amos, who like Daniels are all also former Stamps.

“We’re very loyal to each other, we care about each other greatly and it’s hard to leave that,” Daniels said. “I left that before in 2019 when I went to Edmonton and I know the grass isn’t always greener.

“It just feels right to be in Toronto with this group. I feel like this gives myself and the team the best shot at winning another championship.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2024.

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