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'More focused': Riders' defensive backs look for rebound year after signing contract extensions

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Both Rolan Milligan and C.J. Reavis are looking to have their best CFL season yet after the two defensive backs were re-signed in the off-season and are expected to be key pieces to lead the Riders’ defence.

In January, the Riders extended Milligan’s contract despite him getting injured in Week 5 of the 2023 season, forcing him to miss the remainder of the year. The team felt confident enough that he would be strong enough to come back and be a necessity on the defence in 2024.

“It’s a blessing, feels really good. It was sad early on but once I got into my rehab, I thought, ‘I’ll be good to go,’ so it’s good to be back with my teammates, just playing football,” he said.

Reavis also signed an extension to remain with the club through 2025. It was evident the team was putting their trust in him after releasing Derrick Moncrief earlier during the off-season.

“[I’m] just more focused, no more doubt, and I think just more in a leadership role than I was last year but it’s a good challenge for myself,” Reavis said about coming into his third year in the CFL as a veteran on the roster.

He had to miss the beginning of training camp to nurse a hamstring injury but is ecstatic to be back.

“I think it was good to finally get him out. The guys were giving him the gears, but everything you’ve seen from last year, a lot of energy, versatile player that he is, how he plays but more and more reps will help him in the time that he missed,” said head coach, Corey Mace.

“I just got here two days and I’m like slightly a veteran [now], so it’s cool to see the guys come in and just show them this game is just football. You know, it’s a little faster but it’s still football at the end of the day.”

Reavis came to the CFL in 2022 after spending time with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons.

In 2023, Reavis had 59 tackles, six special teams’ tackles, three sacks, one interception, and three forced fumbles in 17 games.

“I think last year is last year. This is a new season, I’m ready to show what I can do this year. I think the game has slowed down for me. I think when I first got here [in 2022], there were a lot of moving parts. The field size is normal to me now. It’s still huge though,” Reavis laughed.

He will have a new look on the field as he is changing his number to ‘1’ this season, which is a nod to his initial number in college which he was excited to have back. He was also excited to be returning this year alongside Milligan.

“I missed Millie. His leadership, his play. You know he’s so strong and that just motivated me as well. So I think we got a little funny combo going on. Whenever I see him [out there] playing, I want to get out there too. I think it’s a good thing we got going on,” Reavis said.

“For me the guys in the locker room, they’re the ones that keep me going. They had my back when I had my injury so not being able to go to battle with them [during my injury] was tough,” Milligan said.

The two are also returning to a team that has a new head coach with a strong defensive background.

“I’ve been through a lot of different systems throughout college so it’s not really challenging. He’s a defensive coach so he’s not necessarily holding us to a higher standard but he’s coaching us every day. We have to make sure we’re on point,” Milligan explained. 

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