Saskatchewan Roughriders Assistant V.P. of Football Operations & Administration Jeremy O’Day joined 620 CKRM’s SportsCage on Monday to discuss the state of the 10-7 team heading into Week 20.
The Riders host Edmonton Saturday at 5:00 pm at Mosaic Stadium and the situation is very simple: a Rider win means they’ll finish in third place in the CFL West and stay in their division for the playoffs. However a Rider loss means they’ll finish in fourth place and crossover into the East Division on the Road to the Grey Cup.
The Riders have been dealing with a rash of injuries including several starters such as WR Naaman Roosevelt, WR/PR Nic Demski, LBs Otha Foster and Sam Eguavoen, and several others. RB Trent Richardson was dinged up near the end of Friday’s 37-12 win over Montreal, and he was starting in place of the injured Cameron Marshall.
O’Day was asked specifically about Marshall’s status, the team’s leading rusher.
“He’s week-to-week. He’s been practicing,” O’Day reported. “Again, we have a few guys who are in a situation where they may or may not be ready to go. We’re going to take the approach of being cautious with those guys and make sure we’re going into the playoffs with all our ammunition. There are some guys who may or may not go into the lineup so that we’re healthy going into the playoffs.”
Saturday’s game is only “must win” if the Riders intend to stay in their division for the playoffs, but the most important games will come afterwards. It’s clear Head Coach & GM Chris Jones has a lot of decision-making to do for this week’s roster.
“That’ll all be determined by Coach Jones,” O’Day deferred. “He’s let it be 100% known that we’re playing to win this week and that’s the approach we’re gonna take; to play to win every game regardless of where that puts us in the playoffs. We’re going to play anyone who’s healthy enough to play and if there’s anyone that’s close, we’ll err on the side of caution and hold them out.”
We asked O’Day if there’s been any discussion on which road the team would rather take in the playoffs: East or West.
“Sure,” O’Day admitted. “You’re gonna discuss it naturally because you need to make travel plans for either scenario. But honestly, and I’m not blowing smoke, we’re going after this game to win it. We want to get to 11 wins. If that’s the case, we’ll be in the West. If it doesn’t work out on Saturday, we’ll go East.”
The prospect of a crossover doesn’t scare the Riders. They’ve swept back-to-back visits to Ottawa and Toronto in each of the past two regular seasons.
“We’ve had some success going East like this the past two seasons but we know the playoffs are a lot different,” O’Day warned. “Honestly, we don’t really care which side we go to. We just need to play our best football going going into the playoffs and eventually you’ll face the best teams no matter what. We just want to be playing our best football.
“No team has ever crossed over and went to the Grey Cup so it’s a tough thing to do. It’s travel, it’s getting out of your schedule, getting over there, planning for postgame plans if you win. Those are all things you have to figure out and any additional travel plans can distract a team.”
If it’s up to the Rider Nation, they’d like to see the Riders stay in the West. In a poll I posted to my Twitter feed @rodpedersen, 67% of respondents said they want the Riders to finish in third place and go to the Grey Cup through their own division.