Riders work on establishing a fresh identity for the upcoming season
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
REGINA -- Building a team identity can takes weeks or months for a football team, but it’s vital to a team’s success.
Throw in a 20-month break and no preseason, it’s understandable that the Saskatchewan Roughriders are still finding their groove.
"It’s too tough to tell right now," Riders’ quarterback Cody Fajardo said. "The only way you can find out your true identity is what you do in the first couple of games, it’s not going to be you play one game and that’s your identity."
The Riders’ players arrived in Regina about a month ago, they’ve been on the field together for three weeks and now will play their first game that counts in almost two years coming up on Friday.
Head coach Craig Dickenson said the Riders are in the process of figuring out what kind of team they want to be.
"We’ve got a team that likes to work hard, we’ve got a team that likes to be around each other and then we’ll just see how it plays out over the next month or so," he said. "We’ll figure out who we are sooner or later, hopefully, it’s the best version of ourselves."
When the Riders’ last hit the field in 2019, it had established a stellar offence led by Fajardo. Many of the key pieces from that offence are back from 2021.
Fajardo will be back at quarterback, he’ll have Shaq Evans to throw to and William Powell steps back in at running back.
"We got a lot of guys back and we got a lot of new pieces that are going to be big contributors to us," said Powell, who finished with 1,093 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019. "We’ve seen flashes in camp from a multitude of different people, like newcomers that are joining our starting offence and I’m excited to see them play.
"We’ve just got to continue to get better. I’m excited to see everybody building our chemistry and getting into it."
Jason Maas takes over at offensive coordinator for the Riders after being hired prior to COVID-19 shutting down the Canadian Football League for 20 months.
Fajardo can’t wait to see Saskatchewan’s new offence in action.
"It’s incredibly exciting and I really can’t put it into words," he said. "We’ve grinded really hard for two years, just non-stop getting ready for this moment."
Fajardo, the West Division’s Most Outstanding Player in 2019, admitted that while he’s excited, he’s also a little nervous to hit the field against the B.C. Lions on Friday.
"I’m going to be super nervous, I might sail my first couple of passes because I’ll be so amped up with a sold out stadium, but we’ve got to put our emotions in check and we’ve got to go out there and play football like we’ve been doing all of our lives," he said.
The Riders host the Lions on Friday night at Mosaic Stadium. Kick-off is at 7:30 p.m.
HARKER WINS BACKUP QUARTERBACK JOB
Coach Dickenson revealed on Tuesday that Fajardo’s backup for Week 1 will be Isaac Harker. The second-year quarterback put together a strong showing over the past three weeks during training camp to beat out former NFL first round pick Paxton Lynch.