Popp a hot topic in the CFL

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:59 PM ET

Everything is coming up roses in Montreal.

The defending Grey Cup champs are returning the majority of their Cup-winning team.

They are returning to a stadium that has been refurbished with an additional 5,000 seats that can only help the team’s bottom line.

The team has already sold 3,000 new season tickets for the 2010 season.

Even the coaching staff returns — save for a new special teams coach.

Happy, happy days right?

“Here we are a few weeks away, looking to have a big ring ceremony, things are looking great and just hope we have a little luck and stay healthy. We feel great about things,” vice-president, general manager, director of football operations and player personnel boss Jim Popp summed up.

But there is one potential thorn in all this good news and it could be one that alters not just the landscape in Montreal — but the entire CFL.

It’s the future of that same 14-year veteran of the Alouettes front office, Jim Popp.

It’s no secret that Popp’s name has come up in Washington where the Redskins front office is getting a bit of an overhaul.

And while Popp refuses to comment specifically on those reports — “I’m not going to comment on speculation” — neither did he stand up and say the reports were wrong.

Happily

“Bottom line is this isn’t about me today,” Popp said during the Alouettes pre-season conference call with league media on Wednesday trying to deflect any questions about his future.

“It’s about our organization. I am happily working for the Alouettes. I have a contract and I’ve got my nose to the ground and doing the work that I always do and that’s how we plan on going into training camp.”

But is he going to stay?

Later on in the call the issue of Popp’s future was broached again, but beyond promising to be there in training camp with the Alouettes in a few weeks, Popp was non-committal.

Asked specifically if he would finish out his contract, Popp replied: “Well, that’s the plan, but I won’t discuss my contract. (Whether he has an entire year left on his deal wasn’t quite clear, but that was the implication.)

“I do have a contract. It’s that simple and I am working. I have stayed very loyal to the club and I have had plenty of chances to leave and I haven’t done so.

“That doesn’t mean I’m leaving now, but again I do have a contract and my plan is to be working for the Alouettes this season.”

The skeptic wonders whether he means the entire season.

Als president Larry Smith, in a meeting with some of the Montreal media earlier in the day at McGill, gave every indication that he is trying to get Popp re-signed but, like Popp, stopped short of suggesting this one was on its way to a successful conclusion.

“It takes time and I think we’re making progress,” Smith said, “but until anything is done, it’s not done.”

Suffice to say, losing Popp, even after 14 years on the job, would be a huge blow to the Alouettes.

Calling card

You only have to listen to Popp himself, to know how integral he has been to the team’s success.

He has a knack for unearthing talent that isn’t quite NFL-calibre but matches up nicely with the CFL game. He’s almost made it his calling card.

But it was humourous yesterday when Popp managed to work these stats into his opening remarks.

Talking about the need to improve on what the Alouettes have done in the past, Popp somewhat smoothly segued into the fact that last season alone the 30 players he had brought in and subsequently decided weren’t a good fit in Montreal or couldn’t make his club and then cast adrift, all caught on with either other CFL clubs, NFL clubs or UFL clubs.

“We feel we are doing the right thing if we’re picking players that other people want that do not make our football team,” Popp said somehow managing not to sprain an arm as he patted himself on the back.

Popp then revealed how he took his stats work a little deeper and went back over the 14 seasons he has been in Montreal looking at what happened to Alouettes castoffs.

“Over the last 14 years we have had 390 football players go on and play for other CFL teams and over 75 go on to the NFL,” Popp said.

What it sounded like was a man throwing his resume out there — but why do that if you’re planning on staying in Montreal?


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