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Riders respond to CFL rule changes, give update on Labatte

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are right in the heart of the CFL offseason, but the team will need to hash out the rule changes announced Wednesday by the league.

The changes include moving the hashmarks closer together on the field, something that will be a good thing for both CFL offenses and place kicking, according to Riders Head Coach Craig Dickenson. He adds the defense has other feelings about the change.

“Well, they’re not excited about it as the offence — I can tell you that,” said Dickenson.

“We feel like what’s good for the CFL is good for all of us. I don’t think you’re going to see a huge pushback, in terms of a big shift. I think you’ll see better offence … some of these rule changes may open up the offence, just a touch.”

Other on-the-field rule changes include improving field position off the bat with offensive starting points after field goals and extra points, along with kickoffs, pushing the kickers back five yards.

No yards calls will be 15 yards, regardless if the ball is picked up in the air or off the ground, and offenses can now put two quarterbacks on the field at the same time — something that Dickenson said may not make too much of a difference right off the bat.

“I think there's some things you can do, having two quarterbacks on the field at the same time, but we only dress two right now also. So, it's a chance for one of those two to get injured on a play. But I think it’s an easy rule change — an easy thing to put in there,” he said.

When it comes to the change in the hashmarks though, Dickenson explained that it may change some of the more nuanced aspects for coordinators, coaching staffs, quarterbacks and receivers.

“I think you're going to see the field dimensions change because of that and it may bring a little more element of the passing game to the new wide side of the field, which is going to be closer than it used to be. We'll see how it goes,” he said.

Meanwhile, Riders General Manager Jeremy O’Day has his sights set on the upcoming 2022 CFL Draft.

“We’re in pretty good shape as far as our Canadian talent. I don't think there’s an area we have to focus on in, than any other. I think we're in a position that when that pick comes, if we remain in that spot — we'll be looking to take the best player available,” he said.

O’Day also was able to provide an update on homegrown offensive lineman Brendan Labatte.

Labatte sat out the 2021 season, but left the door open for a return in 2022.

“Still taking some time, we’ve communicated with him … but we have nothing to report on it,” O’Day said.

The CFL Draft is on Tuesday, with the Riders heading north to Saskatoon for training camp at the University of Saskatchewan’s Griffith’s Stadium on May 15.

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