There was never a doubt in Weston Dressler’s mind if, or where, he wanted to continue playing football.
The 32-year-old receiver signed a one-year extension Tuesday with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Dressler was scheduled to become a free agent in February but decided quickly after the 2017 season he wanted to return for an 11th CFL campaign and third in Manitoba.
“Once the season is over you kind of take a minute to regroup and think about things,” Dressler said during a conference call. “To continue playing was something I definitely wanted to do and to continue playing in Winnipeg was a top priority.
“I’m just happy they want me to be a part of the team again.”
The five-foot-seven, 168-pound slotback had 51 catches for 691 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games this year. He’s registered 131 receptions for 1,694 yards and five TDs over two seasons with the Bombers.
“Weston Dressler brings so much to our organization in addition to his productivity on the field,” Winnipeg general manager Kyle Walters said in a statement. “Every week he is out on the field, he is a threat in so many facets of the game and brings invaluable experience and leadership to our locker room.”
Dressler said it was important to him to get his contract status settled prior to the start of CFL free agency.
“If you want to be somewhere and have the chance to be there, I feel like if you can get it done before it gets to that free-agent point that’s most important,” he said. “The last few weeks having talks with Kyle and the organization, we knew it was going to get done.
“It was just a matter of taking care of some of the smaller details within the contract. They found a way to make all that stuff work sooner rather than later.”
Dressler played his first eight CFL season with Saskatchewan, recording 539 catches for 7,797 yards and 50 TDs. He also helped the Roughriders win the ’13 Grey Cup before being released two years later.
Walters has been busy this off-season keeping his core players in Winnipeg. Other veterans who’ve also re-signed include running Timothy Flanders, kicker Justin Medlock and left tackle Stanley Bryant, the CFL’s outstanding lineman this year.
“I think it’s important we keep some of the core guys around,” Dressler said. “Knowing that’s kind of the direction the team wanted to go and seeing that was getting done definitely makes me want to be there even more.”
Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols was pleased to learn of Dressler’s return. Shortly after the move was announced, Nichols tweeted three smiling emojis.
A potent offence spearheaded a resurgent ’17 campaign for Winnipeg (12-6), which finished second in the West Division. The Bombers scored a CFL-high 554 points, and their 26.7 offensive points per game were second only to Calgary (27.2).
Running back Andrew Harris led the way. The Winnipeg native topped the CFL in rushing (1,035 yards) and receptions (105) en route to being named the league’s top Canadian.
Nichols was the CFL’s most accurate passer (71 per cent completion average) with a career-best 4,472 yards. Nichols also was tied for third overall in TD strikes (28) while throwing just eight interceptions.
Winnipeg’s defence also had a CFL-best 25 interceptions and forced 42 turnovers, second only to Calgary (45).
But Winnipeg’s promising season ended with a 39-32 West semifinal loss to Edmonton at Investors Group Field. Nichols finished 35-of-48 passing for 371 yards and three TDs after missing the Bombers’ regular-season finale with a calf injury.
Dressler had nine catches for 114 yards and two TDs versus Edmonton. He said the combination of Winnipeg’s playoff loss and missing seven regular-season games due to injury were factors in his decision.
“Any time you don’t reach that ultimate goal as a team there’s that kind of feeling of emptiness at the end,” he said. “On a personal level, I felt like I played some really good football last year (but) unfortunately I missed almost half the (regular) season.
“But playing the game at the level I felt like I could play at was still pretty high when I was out there so I definitely feel like I still want to be on the field.”