Riders finalizing COVID-19 protocols, preparing for training camp
REGINA -- After a quiet past year, the football operations department for the Saskatchewan Roughriders is busy.
"I'm really proud of the work they're doing right now," Riders' general manager Jeremy O’Day said. "We’re confirming all our players as we speak and getting them booked to come into Regina, so every time we book another flight, the excitement grows."
The Canadian Football League announced its return to the field on Monday after the board of governors voted in favour of a 14-game season for 2021.
When he heard the news, O’Day said he was happy for the players, who have had to go almost two years without playing, and for the fans to have football back.
"Super excited, elated, that we're going to get to get back on the field and play football," he said. "Just happy to be back back doing what we do."
As he begins to contact players, the Riders’ GM is also encouraging them to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
"We’re going to try to do our best to encourage our guys to get so that we could reduce that risk of an outbreak on our team," he said.
"It is their choice to get vaccinated."
O’Day said the team has provided education sessions with doctors for the players on the vaccinations, but he didn’t know what percentage of players would have received the shot when they arrive in Regina.
As the team prepares to hit the field next month, it’s also finalizing the protocols that will be in place to limit the spread of the virus.
"Certainly you want to try to do the best you can to mitigate any risk that you can have of bringing COVID into the building," O’Day said. "We're gonna have to be very precautionary and very safe and follow all the protocols that are that are put in front of us so that we we can make sure it doesn't get in the building."
Saskatchewan is set to open training camp on July 10 and will have a little less than a month to prepare for the start of the regular season on Aug. 6 against the B.C. Lions at Mosaic Stadium.
The team will be allowed to bring in 100 players for training camp. O’Day said their roster is currently over that limit, so they will have to make some tough decisions over the next few weeks.
"It’s a little bit tricky because we're things are happening all at once here where we're booking travel for our players, and making sure that our all our players are committed to playing," O’Day said.
He expects there to be more players than usual who decide to move on from football.
"We're in the process of making sure that everyone's committed to come in before we make too many decisions on the roster, but we will have to make some adjustments before we get to camp," O’Day said.
When the Riders kick off the regular season against the Lions, it will have been 628 days since the team last took to the field. O’Day said he won’t be changing his expectations for the team because of that.
"They're competing against players that are in the same same exact position," he said. "We're hoping our guys did the best they could to keep yourself in sit in shape."
With no preseason this year, the Riders are planning on scheduling a scrimmage against another team, but nothing has been finalized yet.
"It’d be great from an evaluation standpoint to be able to see our guys competing against another team," O’Day said. "Also, just from experience, being in training camp for for a week is a long period of time of only playing against your only your own teammates."
O’Day said the team is still working out if fans will be able to attend any of the training camp sessions.
The Riders announced the signing of American linebacker Deon Lacey on Tuesday and O’Day said he’s going to provide a lot of versatility for the team.
"Deon is a multi-dimensional player, he's obviously a four-team special teamer… and we see him as a guy that we can use in multiple areas," he said.
O’Day also revealed global draft selection Sebastian Sagne from Finland was released after tearing his achilles tendon during training for the upcoming season.