T he Saskatchewan Roughriders are entering April Fool’s hoping to find more diamonds in the rough in American free agency camps as the team gears up for a mini-camp in Florida April 10-12 that will give Rider Nation its first look at whether Darian Durant is back from his Achilles injury.
The Riders have been holding camps throughout the United States as part of the new team philosophy to go out and identify potential players who could make a difference to the club. While the focus of the Florida mini-camp will be Durant, the Riders are not shying away from trying out other quarterbacks in an effort to make the overall team stronger than the 3-15 train wreck that drove many of us to alcoholism last season.
The latest entrant in the quarterback stakes is Shane Austin, formerly of the University of Hawaii who has been showing his wares in the Arena Football League the last three years. In the Arena League he has thrown 248 touchdown passes to 42 interceptions over three years. Sure, it is an arena league, which if the CFL was smart, it would get involved in to help develop young players, but you have to like those numbers.
The point of all these tryouts is that it doesn’t hurt to work these players out to see if they have something to offer the Riders. There will likely be even more players as Major League Football announced that it was not going to operate this season and pin its hopes on next year.
Major League Football is another of those fly by night organizations that CFL teams released their players for, Thomas DeMarco, former BC and Ottawa quarterback for instance, that looks like it won’t even get off the ground. Their president, Wes Chandler, sent out a letter announcing the news and stating the league would be using this year to develop its players for the NFL scouts, but you have to wonder about that if you are a player and are likely hitting your agent to get any kind of tryout in North America.
In the meantime, the Canadian Football League Players Association is meeting in Las Vegas, and this meeting is expected to resemble something out of Game of Thrones and Scott Flory, the former U of S Husky and current president of the Association, will be challenged for his job. This isn’t surprising since the one year contracts have left a number of players sitting on the sidelines, disposable after a year, while the association has not agreed to a drug testing policy, which would probably turn up a lot of pot smokers, and probably the odd human growth hormone addict although I can’t see how a CFL player could afford that stuff.
The association is following in the footsteps of the league which held meetings but didn’t notify anyone. Moments like this have me convinced the league is a miracle because it manages to survive because of the fans, not the idiots running the show. I have run across football fans from all over Canada who enjoy the CFL and they deserve better, starting with better communication through the television network with exclusive rights but can’t seem to figure out how to use them effectively.
The Riders in the meantime are dropping hints they took a financial hit last year, which should not come as a surprise to anyone. The Riders will release their numbers at their AGM in June, but considering the empty seats and the subsequent lack of merchandise and concession sales, the team did take several kicks in the tender areas.
For the transfer to the new stadium, they are rolling it over, with 25,000 season ticket holders, this will be the biggest transfer from an old stadium to a new one and people are finding that in some cases, their season tickets are about the same, but others are paying $200 more, which for one seat would make it close to $1,000.
For those from outside the City that Rhymes with Fun, a useful tip will be to go to a shopping mall in Regina and find the free bus to the game. Elphinstone Street will be blocked off during Rider games, with access only for city buses. For people driving, that means coming in off the Lewvan Drive. I used the buses for the 2013 Grey Cup and they worked nicely, but expect to hear people criticize the blockade of Elphinstone and blast the city for not thinking about vehicle parking. I thought the best location would be between the Ring Road and the new bypass that would allow major access and provide lots of vehicle parking since public transit is a dirty word outside of Toronto.
The new Rider jerseys will be unleashed at the start of May, likely before the CFL draft since an easy shot is the newly drafted player wearing a team jersey. I hear they are likely to have some kind of bar along the shoulders and who knows what that means? With the massive changes, the Riders should get quite a few people looking to trade old jerseys and figure out who is playing for us this year and that should help the financial bottom line!
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