With his size, length and pedigree, something doesn’t add up. Rashaun Simonise shouldn’t be on his third Canadian Football League team.
“Just situations,” said the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder on Thursday, the final day of training camp workouts for the Alouettes. “There hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to come in, play and get the ball. I feel it’s a lot about situations.”
As the Als broke camp and the players await the final cuts that must be made by 10 p.m. Friday, the 26-year-old Vancouver native is one of three players — along with Kaion Julien-Grant and Chris Osei-Kusi — vying to become the team’s starting Canadian wide receiver.
If Simonise isn’t the most talented of the triumvirate, he certainly has experience over the other two, both 2019 draft choices. Does that provide Simonise with an edge? Head coach Khari Jones wasn’t saying but, when the dust settles, all three are expected to remain with the team in some capacity.
“I like what (Simonise) did out there. I really did,” Jones said. “I think he’s a pretty solid player who came back really hungry. He’s been in and out of the league and on different teams. That can change somebody. That gets them fired up. He’s excited to be in there.”
Things could have turned out differently for Simonise, who signed with the Als at the end of June.
He was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2016, only to be released at the end of training camp after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, and was subsequently suspended four games by the NFL. Simonise stated at the time he took an over-the-counter training supplement, but the damage was irrevocable.
“I was young and take full responsibility,” Simonise told the Montreal Gazette. “At the same time, it was an honest mistake. I wasn’t trying to do something to get ahead or cheat the game. This was meant to happen, and all the experiences that came after have led to growing into the person I am today. It was definitely unfortunate. At the same time, I wouldn’t change anything.
“It’s part of the story.”
Simonise was considered the top receiver — and fourth overall prospect — for the CFL draft, but his eligibility was deferred a year, to 2018, due to his positive test. He eventually was selected 12th overall, by Winnipeg. Simonise had only four catches with the Blue Bombers before being released the following season. He signed with British Columbia, but was held to five receptions in 2019.
Simonise admitted he hasn’t lived up to his enormous potential. “On the flip side, I don’t feel like I’ve been put in positions to live up to my potential,” he said. “I feel like I’m more of a deep-threat receiver. Every time a deep ball came to me in a game, I feel like I capitalized the best that I can.
“I feel like I need to be utilized for my strengths instead of my weaknesses. I feel like coach Jones is very aware of that. He wants me to come in and do what I do best.”
The strong side of the field is where Canadian receivers’ careers usually die, since it’s the longest throw for a quarterback. On the other hand, Jones — a former CFL quarterback — better than most can devise schemes to utilize all his receivers and playmakers.
“We’ll have to wait for game day to see,” Simonise said. “I know (quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.‘s) got a hell of an arm. It’s definitely possible. If (we’re) open, I fully trust that Vernon’s going to find us. Whoever the open receiver is, I have confidence Vernon’s going to make that decision.”
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