Saskatchewan Roughriders Assistant V.P. of Player Personnel John Murphy appeared on 620 CKRM’s SportsCage on Monday to discuss Sunday’s 30-21 win at Ottawa in the CFL Eastern Semifinal, and look ahead to this Sunday’s East Division Final at Toronto.
He said the team went to the nation’s capital with a purpose.
“It’s to easy to look at what-ifs but we’ve played Ottawa tough and back-and-forth for two years,” Murphy explained. “The memory of having just played the RedBlacks at home and giving up that lead, that was still fresh in their memory. You knew who you were playing; the defending Grey Cup champions at home and they’d be firing on all cylinders. It could’ve played out the way it did, or had we lost, it would’ve left a very bad taste in our mouth going into the off-season. We knew that we’d better bring our A-game right from the national anthem.
“The offensive line was strong, the receivers made plays and there weren’t many penalties. It was an up-tempo game with a lot of rhythm. But when Ottawa tried to make a run in Sunday’s game, you saw our coaches make the necessary adjustments and we were able to withstand their push. Ottawa used all of the clock to score late and make the score more respectable than the game was.”
Murphy said the team has assembled a nice blend of youth with veteran experience, all adding up for a playoff run such as this.
“A lot of our guys are kids who had certain attributes that we pinpointed as a personnel staff. They bring a lot to the table,” Murphy offered. “When we made them offers, it wasn’t just about the new stadium, our fans and the contract that was being offered. We had a unique opportunity for those players whether it was Chad Owens, Kevin Glenn, Bakari Grant, Marcus Thigpen, Bruce Campbell and guys like that. Rob Bagg will be a Rider until he decides he won’t play football any longer. These guys are all keyed into what this means to them. The guys flew home on November 10 last year. We don’t have any plans now to fly anybody home for a few weeks’ time.”
Immediately after the game, Rider Coach Chris Jones told 620 CKRM’s postgame show that the team came out of the Eastern Semifinal injury-free. Murphy concurred.
“Coming out of the game, there were the normal bumps and bruises,” Murphy stated. “Brendon Labatte came with us to do his rehab and now with the luxury of the long week, we’ll have until Wednesday to see how it’s coming around. It’ll be a competitive environment to see if he plays this week. As for the other guys, having two American backs would be ideal but it’s a case of guys needing to play their way onto the roster. No one has played their way off. And we’ll have a few surprise additions at practice this week.”
The Riders raised eyebrows across the CFL with their plan to pack for 21 days when they went to Ottawa, planning to beat the RedBlacks and Argos and advance to the 2017 Grey Cup. Murphy was asked how many discussions were held over coming back to Regina, or staying down east.
“Maybe by the people that were counting the money!” Murphy laughed. “Not to put them in an awkward position. If you want the opportunity to win – which is the situation this organization puts us in on a daily basis – we were going to spend whatever dollar was necessary to put us in position to win the game. Not one person took their luggage to the stadium from the hotel. It was left in our rooms as-is. My computer was on my desk just how I left it. The same thing will happen in Toronto. We’re going to Toronto with the stuff we need, because we plan on coming back to Ottawa afterwards.
“You have to realize that it’s something different but it’s an amazing thing: that there’s a chance at an historical season right in front of you. To be a western club representing the east in the Grey Cup, Canada’s Team has a chance to play in the capital of Canada for a championship and there would be nothing better than to do it with this club.”
The Riders have another day off on Tuesday before beginning their practice week on Wednesday at Carleton University.