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Veteran defensive back Anderson joins Toronto Argonauts secondary

Posted: 07/8/2014 1:47 PM | Comments: 0

Last Modified: 07/8/2014 5:43 PM

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TORONTO - Dwight Anderson holds no grudges against the Saskatchewan Roughriders but won't be taking it easy on his former teammates.

The veteran defensive back attended his first practice with the Toronto Argonauts on Tuesday, a day after being dealt by the Riders for a conditional 2015 draft pick. The Argos spoiled Anderson's 33rd birthday Saturday with a lopsided 48-15 home win over Saskatchewan.

Anderson spent most of Tuesday's practice — cut short by thunder and rain — watching and talking with head coach Scott Milanovich, defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke and defensive backs coach Eddie Brown. The expectation is the two-time Grey Cup champion ('08 with Calgary, last year with Saskatchewan) will play Saturday when Toronto hosts the Calgary Stampeders.

Anderson won't have to wait long to face the Riders. Toronto visits Regina on July 26.

Anderson understood when he arrived in Saskatchewan as a free agent prior to the '13 season he wouldn't be there long. He was signed to help the Riders win a Grey Cup, a goal they achieved last November by beating Hamilton 45-23 at Mosaic Stadium.

While Anderson was somewhat surprised at the timing of the move, he wasn't shocked by Saskatchewan's decision to get younger in its secondary.

"We understand what the journey was there, it was to come in and win a championship," Anderson said. "We got the win like we said we were coming in to do, then they decided they were going to go younger.

"We understand that, that's part of the business."

Anderson hasn't circled July 26 on his calendar but won't be cutting the home team any slack, either.

"They told me not to come back and hurt them too bad," Anderson said with a chuckle. "But I'm pretty sure that's part of the plan."

Anderson left Regina with a real appreciation for the province's rabid football fans.

"Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are the major cities in Canada but Regina to me is a football town," he said. "Everything is about that team there.

"That's pretty much what you like about it, just the fan base and how they support football."

Toronto acquired the five-foot-11 188-pound Anderson to bring experience and veteran savvy to a young defence. The Argos have just four defensive starters from last year and just one — defensive back Jalil Carter — from their '12 Grey Cup-winning unit.

The trade also reunites the colourful Anderson, regarded as the CFL's top trash talker, with Milanovich, Burke and Argos GM Jim Barker. Milanovich and Burke were assistant coaches with Montreal when Anderson was there while Barker was in Calgary's front office in 2008.

"He's a veteran, a riverboat gambler," Milanovich said. "He's very instinctive, I think he's a very intelligent football player who understands pattern reading and how an offence is trying to attack him and that gives him the opportunity to jump routes and make big plays.

"Hopefully he will bring that to our team with some attitude, swagger and confidence."

Anderson said he was at home relaxing when he got the call from Riders GM Brendan Taman.

"We went over it (trade to Toronto) and discussed it before anything went down," Anderson said. "He asked me how I felt about it and I was like, 'I'm cool with it,' because I knew Jim and Scott were here already.

"It wasn't out of the blue ... we actually sat down and talked about it."

Anderson made headlines for the wrong reasons in August 2013 when he and former Riders teammate Taj Smith were accused of beating a man outside a Regina nightclub. Smith was ordered to stand trial but a judge told Anderson there wasn't enough evidence against him.

Milanovich feels Anderson is "misunderstood," because of his past troubles but has said Anderson's teammates enjoy having him on their side.

"He said it right on point," Anderson said of Milanovich's assessment. "The outsiders are going to say what they want to say.

"I could be saying, 'How you doin',' and (critics will say) D.A. is talking trash. At the end of the day I don't worry about it. I just worry about the locker-room, what I have to take care of on the field and just go about my business."

Although he watched most of Tuesday's practice, Anderson said he's familiar with Toronto's defence given his association with Burke in Montreal.

"It's all coming back," he said. "I've been around this league long enough.

"It's just different terminologies. Once I get the names and stuff down, I'll be rolling faster."

Anderson welcomes being a mentor for Toronto's young defensive backs.

"It's coming in and being a leader, showing the young guys the way, just doing what I do and showing them how it's done in the league," he said. "That's my little input, my little piece to the puzzle."

And while he's with a different team in a different city, Anderson won't change how he plays the game.

"D.A. is always going to be D.A.," he said. "That's what I do, oh yeah, that (talking) never stops. That fuels me, that gives me my energy.

"It's just you can't get too many penalties, that's what you're all talking about right? You don't have to worry about that."

Anderson also won't have to worry about facing Argos quarterback Ricky Ray, who threw for 407 yards and three TDs Saturday and last year completed a CFL-record 77.2 per cent of his passes.

"He (Ray) is a grandfather in the league right now," Anderson said. "I've played with a grandfather before in Anthony (former Montreal starter Anthony Calvillo) so I know how it is to play with a great quarterback.

"I don't have to worry about those corner routes or anything like that anymore."

Anderson said the Riders' expectation this season is not only returning to the Grey Cup but facing Toronto at B.C. Place.

"Coming into the season before I even came over here, we thought we were going to see them (Argos) in the Grey Cup because that's where I figured Saskatchewan was going to be," Anderson said. "We knew they had a good team.

"When you look at the East there's not really too many teams that can compete with the Argos right now. Everybody is trying to find themselves so I'm looking forward to this challenge ... to doing some big things here."

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