THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — Noel Prefontaine isn’t ready to call it a career just yet.
The Toronto Argonauts released the veteran kicker/punter Tuesday, and Prefontaine said wants to continue his CFL career. He has even hired an agent to beat the bushes for an opportunity with another team.
The move comes less than a month after Prefontaine helped the Argos defeat the Calgary Stampeders 35-22 in the 100th Grey Cup game at Rogers Centre.
"I definitely want to continue playing," Prefontaine said. "But at the same time if there is no interest and I decide playing is no longer in my future, what better way to end it than on top with the team I dearly love."
Prefontaine was limited to seven regular-season games this year after undergoing major hip surgery in July. The Argos looked to American Swayze Waters to handle kicking and punting duties for much of the season, but Prefontaine returned to the lineup late in the year when Waters suffered a hand injury that prevented him from handling third-down snaps.
Prefontaine, who will turn 39 on Sunday, helped Toronto win the Grey Cup last month, averaging 44.6 yards on seven punts in the championship game.
"My hip feels great, it’s better, stronger," he said. "They told me it was going to be a four-to-six month recovery and to get back kicking a ball and playing 10 weeks after the surgery meant a lot to me.
"At the same time it (hip) was never 100 per cent. There was still some pain in there although it felt a lot better than it did before the surgery. But I knew the four-to-six months was right in terms of some of the stuff I was feeling."
Argos GM Jim Barker said economics played a role in the decision to let Prefontaine go. He he also wanted to give Prefontaine enough time to find a job with another team but didn’t close the door on him returning to Toronto in 2013.
"This doesn’t mean the Argonauts and Noel Prefontaine will never reunite," Barker said. "It just means under his current contract we needed to go a different way.
"The off-season is about business and we try to make decisions that work best for our overall club. Noel needed to be released now because it’s best for him, it gives him some time to see what’s out there and what he wants to do. I didn’t want to wait until the very end, I wanted to do it as early as possible because that’s the way you treat a player that’s done all the things he has done for me personally and this organization."
It’s a move Prefontaine saw coming.
"You wish you didn’t have to deal with the business side of it, obviously, but it’s going to happen," he said. "I think that’s why I wasn’t surprised.
"Being in the game long enough and understanding what goes on I kind of anticipated something like this happening."
Prefontaine began his CFL career with Toronto in 1998 and spent 10 seasons with the Argos — with a stint in the XFL and NFL tryouts with Baltimore and Kansas City before being dealt to Edmonton prior to the 2008 season. The Eskimos traded Prefontaine back to the Argos in October 2010.
Prefontaine was born in California but was deemed a non-import in the CFL because he spent time growing up in Quebec.
The six-time league all-star and two-time Grey Cup champion has appeared in 235 career CFL regular-season games. Prefontaine boasts a career 45.8-yard punting average and has made 332-of-457 career field goal attempts (72.6 per cent).
Prefontaine, a married father of two young children, said he has no bitterness towards the Argos for releasing him.
"I’m so appreciative of the many things the organization did for me over the years," he said. "Coming back and being able to play and win the Grey Cup, it couldn’t get any better than that.
"This is just a new chapter for me."