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Redblacks lose Devonte Williams with torn Achilles tendon

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“It’s not something you look forward to hearing in the offseason, but it’s something you always prepare for as a football club.”

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The Ottawa Redblacks have suffered their first loss of the year.

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And it’s a significant one.

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The Canadian Football League team announced Thursday that running back Devonte (The Matrix) Williams recently had surgery to repair an Achilles tendon he tore while training.

The injury will keep the 27-year-old from Columbia, Md., sidelined “long-term.”

“It’s not something you look forward to hearing in the offseason, but it’s something you always prepare for as a football club,” Redblacks general manager Shawn Burke said. “We prepare for (injuries) at every position.”

Last season, his second with the team, the 5-9, 170-pound Williams missed three games and still finished fifth in CFL rushing with 1,002 yards on 182 carries.

He also caught 37 passes for 327 yards, effectively making him Ottawa’s most dangerous weapon.

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shawn burke ottawa redblacks
Ottawa Redblacks general manager Shawn Burke. Photo by Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

“Obviously, he was a big component of our offence who continued to get better and better, so we’re disappointed to not continue to see his growth this season in the CFL,” Burke said. “Going into free agency, we identified him as a key guy to bring back, but at the same time our personnel staff is always looking to bring in guys to compete and push all our veterans, so we’ve signed three guys this offseason, American running backs, who all have NFL pedigrees, two of them have been drafted, and they’ll get the opportunity to come in and compete, and we’ll have a big competition at training camp at running back.”

The candidates to replace Williams include:

Ryquell Armstead, 5-11, 220 pounds, Temple.

The 27-year-old was a fifth-round choice of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019. He played in 16 games that season and in two more the following year, and last season suited up for eight games with the DC Defenders in the XFL.

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“He’s a guy we brought up last season for a few weeks, just for him to get a look at what the CFL was about and for us to take a look at him,” Burke said. “He headed back because of some roster issues and whatnot, and then we got signed him right after the year. So he got an opportunity to see how our league works, how it operates day-to-day, and that opportunity gives him a chance to train this off-season in a way that is more custom for CFL compared to NFL.”

Kylin Hill, 5-11, 210 pounds, Mississippi

Hill, 25, was a seventh-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2021. He played in 10 games with the Packers over two years.

“He was a guy we tracked on a neg list for a while, trying to get him signed for a while here, and we got it done early in 2024,” Burke said. “He was very productive in the (Southeastern Conference). He’s a guy that we’ve been excited about for a while.”

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Tyler Hoosman, 5-11, 214 pounds, North Dakota

The 24-year old was with the Los Angeles Chargers last season, his first as a pro, but did not play.

“We almost brought him in at the end of last season, but the roster was just too tight to to bring another running back, so we signed him shortly after the season,” Burke said. “All three of those guys are big backs, probably a little different than Devonte: more downhill, straight-line backs. But we’re excited to see them compete and show what they can do.

“There’s probably some veterans that are available on the market, but for right now we want to give these guys the opportunity. We’ve liked them on film and we’ve had them involved in our offseason, getting to know them.  It’ll be a great battleground for competition at training camp.”

dbrennan@postmedia.com

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