The Saskatchewan Roughriders were back to work on Wednesday for the first time since Saturday’s 30-15 loss at BC.
At 2-4 and coming off a lacklustre performance, I thought the best guy to talk to is 10-year veteran lineman Brendon Labatte. The Weyburn, SK product is into his sixth season with the Roughriders and has experienced the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows.
I asked him where this campaign rates compared to the rest of his time here.
“When you look at the last few games on the road, it’s tough to look back and say where it stacks up,” Labatte offered. “But just the vibe of the optimism we had going, and then to lay an egg back-to-back in division road games, it’s a pretty humbling experience. I know what I ant to say, but that’s probably not a good word so I’ll just leave it at that.
“I don’t know if it’s the lowest of the lows, but to say it’s a disappointing time would be the best way to put it. We’ve been talking about what we’re going to do but when we go out to do it, we haven’t even been close and that’s the most disappointing thing.”
Labatte’s been on a lot of different Rider teams and seen scores of players come and go. Therefore he’s qualified to judge the talent level on the 2017 Riders.
“I don’t think the talent is an issue,” Labatte observed. “I’ve been on teams where you line up and you know, man-on-man, guys are going to have a tough time no matter where those match-ups are; linebacker/running back, O-line/D-line. I think we have the talent and the groups in here to do win those one-on-ones but we need to win them consistently and cut out the penalties. Those are the kind of things that’ll wreck a season if we don’t get it changed.”
I asked “Blue” if time is all that’s needed. For these talented players to grow together and learn how to win.
“There’s probably a bit of that but time’s something we don’t have a lot of Roddy!” Labatte smiled. “You’ve gotta be able to pick it up and we have to be able to make those changes on a 5,6,7-game day turnaround. Probably the most frustrating thing is I feel we haven’t taken a big jump or turned a corner. It’s fine to win some games at home but when you go out on the road against good teams, that’s when you’ll truly measure yourself. We’ve come up way short so we have a lot of learning to do in not a lot of time.”
The Rider Nation is beyond impatient right now and Labatte said he’s very in tune with the fans’ angst.
“I hear it, just because I’m from here,” Labatte shrugged. “I’ve got friends and family all over this province so of course I hear it. Not so much on Twitter because I block that out but I know what the vibe is around here. It’s embarrassing. It’s tough to be from here, be a Saskatchewan resident your whole life, and know the amount of importance this organization carries this province, and not be able to turn it around.
“That’s kind of the worst part about all this. 2 1/3 years of under-achieving. It’s bad for the people of this province, the fans, the team. It’s something we need to get turned around but we don’t have a lot of time to find the answers.”
Of course Labatte experienced the best there’s ever been, being the starting left guard on the 2013 Grey Cup champion Roughriders. He, more than anybody, knows that when it’s good around here, it’s great.
“That would be the great thing,” Labatte said of a return to winning football. “Hopefully when we do get it turned around, it’ll snowball and some of these guys that are new to this will see how good it can be. We just have to get the ball rolling right now.”
The Riders host the BC Lions Sunday at 6:00 pm on TSN and the 620 CKRM Rider Radio Network.