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'Important game for me': Riders' Derel Walker to face off against former team in season opener

Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Derel Walker hopes to make a statement against his former team this weekend when the Riders open the 2023 season against the Elks in Edmonton.

“I look forward to going out there and doing what I do. Be productive, help our team win, go out there and have fun and enjoy it,” Walker said about the opportunity to play against his former squad in the first game of the year.

Walker played for Edmonton from 2015-18 where he earned a Grey Cup Championship and was also a two-time CFL All-Star and three-time West Division All-Star. After a season with the Toronto Argonauts, the receiver once again joined the Elks from 2021-22.

“I’m very familiar with the turf in that field. I was there for a while. So you know definitely the juices are stirring. Just looking forward to getting out there and running that first route, catching my first ball, putting some good stuff on film,” he said.

In his seven-year CFL career Walker has recorded 6,653 yards on 471 receptions, which includes 2,057 yards after catch and 33 touchdowns.

“Definitely want to start the season off 1-0, this is obviously an important game for me. It’s my former team so definitely want to go out there and show them that I’m still rolling,” Walker added when asked if there was a little extra fuel to the fire to get the win this weekend.

“I am happy for Derel and Derel’s steadily gotten better every day at practice. I know he’s really excited to get out there and we’re happy to have him,” Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said.

Walker will now be tested to get past the well-known ‘Chris Jones’ defence in Edmonton. Something Dickenson was asked about this week as well.

“Jones is a good football coach and I think we can expect the unexpected when going against Chris,” he said.

“Nothing that I’m not too familiar with. Obviously, I’ve practiced against them every day last year. So he’s going to rely on the D-line to do what they do, then allow his corners to sometimes play some man, play some double cut, or something like that. Really just have to go out there and find the groove of the game,” Walker said when asked about the Elks’ defence.

Walker signed with the Riders back in March, after he said Edmonton made it clear he would not be returning for the 2022 season.

“They decided to go another way. I didn’t have any contact with them prior to the season. They said they were going to reach out, but you know they never called so as a player you have to figure out what’s next for you. I had to find somewhere for myself to go and fortunately, this is where I’m at now. I’m happy to be a Rider and looking forward to building some strong history and falling in love with the traditions they have here,” Walker said.

Walker is not the only veteran receiver the Riders picked up in the off-season.

They also signed former Montreal Alouette, Jake Wieneke. The two will look to lead the offence this year and have already formed a bond.

“We were roommates during camp. We just picked each other’s brains and watched the highlights of his success. When I came into the league in 2019, just watching him play in Toronto at the time [and seeing his success there]. He’s had so many amazing years. He’s had an amazing career and he’s still getting better. I’m learning from him, watching him run routes and he’s making me better and everyone in our room better,” said Wieneke.

“Derel looks like the Derel everybody remembers early in his career and just can’t wait to see him unleash this season,” Riders quarterback Trevor Harris said.

Kickoff between the Riders and Elks is at 5 p.m. on Sunday on TSN. Top Stories


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