MONTREAL — It’s become the number one question of the Alouettes’ off-season in recent years: Will Anthony Calvillo return?
Less than 24 hours after the Toronto Argonauts ended their season, the Alouettes were back at Olympic Stadium to gather their belongings and say their goodbyes for the winter months. And while the Eastern Final loss still stung, Calvillo wasn’t about to make a rash decision on his future.
"When the season’s over, you’re just an emotional wreck, to be honest. You’re very drained mentally, you just want to take a break and make sure you make the best decision possible so that’s what I’m going to do," he said. "I’m going to take a couple of weeks, relax with the family and then evaluate from there.
"I just don’t want to let this drag on too long."
In a season that saw him celebrate his 40th birthday, the veteran quarterback was at the top of his game once again, reaching new heights in what has already been a remarkable career. Calvillo finished his 19th CFL campaign — 15th with the Alouettes — with 5,082 passing yards, making him the first pivot in league history to hit 5,000 yards in a single season seven times in his career.
He also threw for 300 yards in eight straight games, breaking Doug Flutie’s single-season record set in 1991 with the B.C. Lions.
"I think this has been one of his best years, I really do. I think he’s been tremendous and very productive. I don’t see any limitations in his performance," Alouettes coach Marc Trestman said. "Not only do I think he can play but play at the very, very high level, which I thought he did throughout the season."
Calvillo made it through the 2012 season relatively unscathed compared to recent years. A left shoulder injury — his non-throwing arm — suffered early in the season lingered but didn’t keep him off the field. He finished the season having started all but the Alouettes’ regular season finale in Winnipeg.
He said his shoulder will need some attention during the off-season, noting that he still can’t lift it. And while he said he feels "fantastic" both mentally and physically, shoulder aside, he knows a better indication of his future will play out in the coming weeks.
"I always tell myself that if my body’s hurting and it’s very difficult to get out of bed week in and week out and it’s not fun, then that’s going to play a major role. But you don’t know that until the end of the season," Calvillo said. "During the season when things are banged up you don’t think about it, you have to get ready for the next game. Now that the season’s over, this is when you start to feel everything."
Both Trestman and general manager Jim Popp both expressed their desire to see their quarterback return in 2013. Popp admitted that the earlier he knows, the better, but will let Calvillo take the time he needs.
Backup quarterback Adrian McPherson will also have a decision to make on his future in Montreal. Set to be a free agent on Feb. 15, he’s spent five years with the Alouettes, the last few as the No. 2 guy. During that time, he’s been mostly relied on for short yardage situations.
He’ll turn 30 before next season begins.
"It’s been a tough road for him at times by not playing because he was playing a lot (in the Arena Football League before joining the Alouettes)," Popp said. "Even if Anthony returns, it wouldn’t surprise me if he returns, too. But he may want a change of scenery and then we move on."
If Calvillo returns and McPherson moves on, soon-to-be 26-year-old Josh Neiswander would move up the depth chart into the back-up spot.
It’s been suggested by some that perhaps Calvillo could move into a mentorship role, as Tracy Ham did when the tail end of his career coincided with Calvillo’s early days in Montreal. Popp said they brought Calvillo in knowing that Ham was soon planning to call it quits.
"Last year, I remember commenting about (a mentorship role) and, to be honest, that’s where I was mentally. I felt that maybe we should let somebody else get an opportunity, maybe I could be that mentor type of guy," Calvillo said. "Then once the season was over and I started evaluating a bit more, I said no, I want to play. I want to go out there and compete at a high level.
"That’s the difference between last year and this year. I’m going to help this team in any way possible."