Riders thinking outside of the box with signings, camps

March 10, 2016 - 12:58pm

Thank Jebus for social media.

Since the release of Chris Getzlaf, things have been pretty quiet in Rider Nation. Rider GM and Head Coach Chris Jones has spoken at a few dinners across the province and made a good impression judging from reports.

Where social media comes in is with the Riders signing Bud Sasser, a receiver from the University of Missouri who was drafted in the sixth round by the formerly St. Louis Rams but was released when during his physical he was found to have a heart condition.

Sasser got a letter from the Mayo Clinic stating he could play with his condition and there are other athletes playing in the NFL with the same condition. Sasser is 6’3” 219 lbs and has a reputation for being able to jump up and get the ball. He is not known as a speed merchant, but in the Chris Jones ball control offense where the QBs can throw the ball up to tall receivers who out-reach the defensive backs, that is not a bad thing.

Sasser announced the signing on his social media feed and while it hasn’t been made official by the Riders, probably because they may be getting to the point where they have to release some players in order to keep to the league mandated roster sizes in the off-season, it likely won’t be the only one coming up.

The new Rider brain trust, composed of Jones, John Murphy vice president of player personnel and Jeremy O’Day, are redoing the Rider negotiation list where they now have short term, mid-term and long term prospects. The Riders apparently have their scouts in place across the United States where they are no more than three hours away from a college football stadium and will be for the next year scouting everybody.

It will take about a year to get everything fully functioning in identifying prospects because right now the Riders are in the rebuild or reload phase.  Starting at the Florida mini-camp scheduled for April 10-12, they will have a better idea on who they have and what they can do.

So here is the Rider free agent camp schedule leading up to April 12 in Florida - Friday, March 18th,  Naperville, IL ; Saturday March 19th, Cheswick, PA;  Sunday, March 20th, Orchard Park NY; Saturday, April 9th, Vero Beach, FL; Sunday, May 8th Atlanta, GA;  Sunday May 14th, Rosenberg, TX; Sunday, May 15th Carrollton TX.

The Rider mini-camp will be interesting because this will be the first look at Darian Durant throwing the ball since the first game of last season, and Brett Smith and apparently Keith Price will be there as well. Price is an interesting story because he is a free agent who is apparently looking to get his foot in the door in the NFL which has a few quarterback openings these days. Apparently though he is supposed to be at this camp, which will be a good opportunity for Jones to take a look and decide whether or not to keep him and Smith or cut them loose.  Also in attendance will be BJ Coleman and Armanti Edwards, the hybrid receiver/quarterback.

The camp will also include free agent signings and players coming in via trade and negotiation list players  who would likely be undrafted free agent signings to NFL camps but who the Riders can monitor and offer work to if their NFL dreams don’t work out.

The Riders have also been busy north of the border as the CFL held a series of regional CFL combine camps prior to the main CFL evaluation camp next weekend in Toronto. The Riders hold the top pick in the draft, and not much else, so they are not quite tipping their hand, but I would say off the top of my head, an offensive or defensive lineman would be first and foremost on their list and preferably not one headed to the United States.

We do have some time for the CFL draft which is May 10, following the NFL draft which will shake down April 28-30. Right now the NFL is going through its version of free agency and a former Rider negotiation list and training camp player Chase Daniels just got signed by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now as I am writing this in my Tino Sunseri game worn signature jersey (honestly, some people think they are ugly, but they are the most comfortable jerseys I have ever worn around the house, going out for a run, wrestling with the cat, picking up women), which is apparently no longer on the hangers in the Rider locker room, news has emerged of the new Rider jersey’s to be unleashed onto the public April 17.

Following the wholescale purge of the Rider roster, one old Ukrainian woman told me in the Co-op parking lot that the only people making money will be the people selling programs. She also wondered what people would do with their old Dressler and Chick jerseys and I suggested they keep wearing them.  Chick may play for Hamilton and Dressler is in Winnipeg, but they are both Riders for life.

But I digress, the new jerseys are supposed to be out April 17 so prepare yourself. You never know if the signature jerseys will be an artistic high point!

Speaking of high points, the big cranes are coming down at the new stadium, with the portable cranes still in place. This means the roof is in place and this past week the Riders released a video on their locker room you can access at the Riderville web site, although for some reason when I checked it out I was getting stuff in stereo, but the pictures pretty well explained themselves.

The new locker room is an open concept with air movement from behind the lockers to help curb odors from developing and a LED showcase for helmets. The stadium will be complete this year and I expect the first game to be a test between the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina to allow the City to test drive several aspects of the stadium like concessions.

For those wondering about parking, especially from out of town, the City of Regina plans to shut down Elphinstone Street from the tracks to probably the Armoury to allow just buses to have access. So if you are coming in from out of town, you might be advised to park at a mall and ride a bus (last time I did that it was free) to the game and then back to your mall.

The Riders are also planning the biggest transfer of season ticket holders in Canadian sports history and probably the third biggest in North American sports history. This process will be ticklish because some people want to sit with their friends, and the way the stadium is configured, that may not be possible, but it will be fascinating to follow.

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