Brandon Alexander doesn’t look at the serious knee injury he suffered in the Grey Cup as a curse, despite it throwing a major wrench into his offseason plans and threatening to delay his start to the 2022 CFL season.
In fact, he sees it as a blessing.
"I just don’t think it’s by chance that God allowed me to play for the rest of that game," Alexander told reporters during a 30-minute phone conference Friday. "I’m so thankful for that opportunity, to be able to still play even though I was feeling wrong. Being able to be out there with the guys and being able to lay it all out for the guys, that’s the most important thing to me." The Winnipeg Blue Bombers safety said his left knee started to feel off sometime during the second quarter, in what was a spirited championship game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last December. He recalled telling his teammates about it at halftime, adding he was steadfast in his determination to finish the game, no matter the consequences.
"I played the rest of that game, and I might have made it worse, but it’s all good. It’s what we signed up for," Alexander said. "I wouldn’t want it to have happened any other way."
The end result certainly helped, as the Bombers went on to defeat the Ticats 33-25 in overtime to claim back-to-back Grey Cup titles. Alexander was on the field for the final play of the game, which ended with a rare walk-off interception by Kyrie Wilson.
It was a frustrating ending for what was a breakout season for Alexander. He was the undisputed leader in the secondary and was named a CFL all-star for the first time in his four-year career, all of which has been played in Winnipeg.
Alexander has suffered injuries before with the Bombers, includng missing several weeks with a hamstring issue in 2019. Last season, he played in 13 of 14 regular-season games, registering a 36 defensive tackles and eight special-teams tackles, along with two interceptions and a forced fumble.
“I played the rest of that game, and I might have made it worse, but it’s all good. It’s what we signed up for. I wouldn’t want it to have happened any other way.” — Brandon Alexander
As difficult as the last couple months have been for the 28-year-old, he was delivered some good news on Friday. The Bombers and Alexander have agreed on a two-year deal, which will keep him in blue and gold through the 2023 season.
"I know that they respect me very much and they know I can bring a great asset to this team, regardless of being on the field or not," he said. "This has been home for me."
As for whether Alexander will be ready in time for the upcoming season, with training camp set for May and the regular season in June, he steered clear of making any predictions. He did have surgery to repair a torn ACL in the knee, which often has a timeline of at least a few months to recover.
Alexander has moved to Winnipeg for the offseason — to be clear, he’s doing just fine with the cold, an impressive feat for a Florida native — and has been working with Bombers head athletic therapist Al Couture. He added he’s progressing well, no longer holed up on the couch, and is determined to come back stronger than before.
"Throughout my whole life I’ve just felt like I’ve always been kind of on the short end of the stick in terms of my sports world — basketball, football, track, any of those things. That just kind of continued for me to keep working harder, keep pushing myself, keep bettering myself and bettering the guys around me," Alexander said. "That’s just what keeps me motivated and keeps me moving, is I feel like I’ve always got to prove something wrong, I’m always doubted and things. So, this nothing but another block in the road."
He added: "It’s definitely one of the hardest challenges I’ve been through. It’s not going to be a breeze, it’s going to take some hard work, but I’m going to get through it, and everybody knows in this organization that I will."
There’s also the added incentive of going for a third straight championship, as many of last year’s team has been locked up for 2022. There have been some notable departures, too, including running back Andrew Harris and receiver Darvin Adams, both of whom had been with the Bombers for years.
“It’s definitely one of the hardest challenges I’ve been through. It’s not going to be a breeze, it’s going to take some hard work, but I’m going to get through it, and everybody knows in this organization that I will.” — Brandon Alexander
"They’ve been here since I’ve been here, and they were here before I even got here," Alexander said. "Looking at those guys, to be really true, that’s definitely big. With those two guys, they have a big aura, they have a big, just a big everything about them in this locker-room. And we’re going to miss those guys dearly, for sure."
The secondary has also undergone a bit of a makeover.
Deaundre Alford and Deatrick Nichols were both named CFL all-stars in their rookie seasons, and have garnered attention from the NFL, with Alford already inking a deal with the Atlanta Falcons. Strong-side linebacker Alden Darby signed with Hamilton.
With Alexander not guaranteed to be ready for the start of the season, there are several moving pieces still to figure out.
"Every single year is going to be different, and we’re going to lose pieces and things like that," he said. "We lost guys. But the only thing we can do is move forward. We know that changes are inevitable, and it happens every day. We have a good locker-room still, we have guys coming back. We have a good core group, and we should be able to build off that."
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.