Brad Sinopoli is leaving football happy and healthy.
The Ottawa Redblacks veteran receiver announced his CFL retirement Wednesday. The 33-year-old Peterborough, Ont., native spent nine seasons in the league with the Calgary Stampeders (2011-14) and Ottawa (2015-19).
"It was very difficult to come to terms with that acceptance (retirement) but at the same time there are things you deal with body-wise and health-wise that start to add up over the years," Sinopoli said. "I wanted to retire healthy and feeling good.
"I always said I never wanted to play until I'm breaking down and it seemed like now is the right time to move forward healthy and happy with my family."
The six-foot, 215-pound Sinopoli broke into the CFL with Calgary after being named Canadian university football's top player in 2010 as a quarterback with the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Sinopoli transitioned to receiver during his third year with the Stampeders before returning to Ottawa as a free agent prior to the 2015 season.
Sinopoli blossomed into a star with the Redblacks, registering four straight 1,000-yard seasons and twice being named the CFL's top Canadian (2015, '18). He also helped Ottawa win the 2016 Grey Cup with thrilling 39-33 overtime decision over Calgary.
But after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in 2017, Sinopoli had his worst statistical season with Ottawa in 2019 (72 catches for 671 yards). The Redblacks finished with a CFL-worst 3-13 record.
The CFL didn't play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but plans to return Aug. 5 with a 14-game schedule.
Also figuring into Sinopoli's thinking was his wife, Laura, delivering the couple's first child — a son named James — in March 2020.
"It (pandemic) really just gave me the time to reflect," Sinopoli said. "We had a newborn son and perspectives shift about what's important.
"It would've been cool to play and have your son, your kids be able to come down on the field. That's something I always wanted but at the same time being healthy for everyone is a much better thing to experience."
Sinopoli's announcement definitely follows a trend. Also on Wednesday, free-agent Canadian safety Taylor Loffler retired after four CFL seasons while Tuesday Canadian receiver Natey Adjei was one of six Montreal Alouettes to call it a career.
Also on Tuesday, Edmonton offensive lineman Derek Dennis, the CFL's top lineman in 2016, announced he was stepping away from football this season to take care of his family. Dennis added he wasn't retiring.
Cornerback Delvin Breaux (Hamilton Tiger-Cats), quarterback James Franklin (Saskatchewan Roughriders) and defensive lineman Adrian Tracy (Hamilton-Montreal) were among a number of CFL veteran players to retire this off-season.
Sinopoli, who also won a Grey Cup with Calgary in 2014, registered 509 career catches for 5,741 yards and 19 TDs in 139 regular-season games. He also added 21 receptions for 247 yards and two touchdowns in 11 career playoff contests.
The Redblacks said Sinopoli will serve as a community ambassador for their ownership group.
"Brad epitomized what it is to be a Redblack . . . always smiling, he was a humble, dedicated professional who let his play do the talking," Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins said in a statement. "We’ll miss his ability on the field as well as his contributions in the locker room and in the community."
Sinopoli is grateful to have been on two Grey Cup-winning teams, but said those aren't the only CFL memories he'll cherish.
"They (Grey Cups) are gigantic moments because they're extremely hard to win," Sinopoli said. "And with how we won in 2016, that was one of the greatest Grey Cups ever to be a part of.
"Starting in Calgary, there wasn't a lot of faith that I'd make it, I didn't really know if I was going to be on the team tomorrow. So there were small special moments like playing in the pre-season game as a quarterback and having my family there, that were such a big deal for me, just little things like that were so personal and special."
Although the switch from quarterback to receiver wasn't entirely his decision, Sinopoli is glad the Stampeders gave him a chance to continue playing in the CFL. Sinopoli said he began taking reps as a scout-team receiver after injuries had decimated Calgary's receiving corps.
"It was kind of be released or we can give you this opportunity, you can maybe try and come into camp next year as a special-teamer and receiver," Sinopoli said. "I didn't see myself being picked up by another team as a quarterback and felt like here was an opportunity to keep playing and see what maybe can come from that.
"I think maybe any other scenario, I probably would've been released and who cares but I was lucky they saw something even I didn't see at the time and they let that grow. I'm very fortunate for Calgary keeping me around and seeing that and being patient enough to allow me to get good enough to be on the team and keep it going."
Sinopoli also thanked his Montreal-based agent, Darren Gill.
"It obviously started as a business relationship and has turned into a friendship," Sinopoli said. "He has shown lot of trust in me and been nothing short of fantastic.
"We've always had great life conversations and not just about football or the business side and that's something I always appreciated. Even though my football part is over, our relationship isn't going to end and that's a great thing."
Sinopoli is looking forward to devoting more time to becoming a professional musky guide in the Ottawa region. Sinopoli developed his love for fishing growing up in Peterborough and reignited that passion the past few years.
"Anyone who has fished for muskies knows all the factors that go into finding them and catching them," Sinopoli said of a species that's often been referred to as the fish of 1,000 casts. "But those are challenges I enjoy and I want to share that experience with people the best I can.
"I'm going to start small and slow and just focus on one client at a time and see where it can go. It's something different and dynamic but I've had some great people (like Ottawa guide Jamie Pistilli) who've led me into this and helped me along the way. I don't know where it's going to go but that's part of life and the fun of doing it."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2021.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press