OTTAWA – The Saskatchewan Roughriders held a closed workout at Carleton University on Day 2 of their practice week on Thursday. Here are some notes:
1 – It rained for much of the day in the nation’s capital, but the temperature was +6 Celsius. With a southwest wind at 23 km/h, it felt like +2. The players and coaches said afterwards that the workout was chilly, but the focus was there.
2 – The forecast for Sunday’s CFL East Division Final in Toronto now calls for +3 Celsius and wind. The Roughriders will oppose the Toronto Argonauts at 12:00 pm Sask Time on TSN and the 620 CKRM Rider Radio Network. A Saskatchewan victory would make the Roughriders the first team in CFL history to advance to the Grey Cup through the crossover format.
3 – After opening the week as 1.5-point favourites, the Argos are now favoured by 2.5-points. All of the CFL’s stats and analytics point to a Toronto win, and the Riders have noticed.
“We see it,” huffed Rider receiver Duron Carter. “We see the CFL ‘probability’ that we have like a 2% chance of winning the game and all that stuff. You have to sort of block it out. We’re here, we know we’re good, and we’re here to win.”
If they can’t block it out, the Green & White plan to use the predictions as motivation.
“You sort of have to, in a sense,” Carter advised. “You never want to be looked down upon, especially in a sport where we feel we’re the top guys. We definitely bring it into the game. We thought about it (in the Eastern Semifinal) when nobody thought we could crossover and win. We keep it on our backs, and we’re ready.”
4 – Argonauts Head Coach Marc Trestman had franchise legend Mike “Pinball” Clemons address their team on Wednesday at Toronto’s practice facility. Clemons is a skilled motivational speaker and his speech was reportedly very inspirational.
Will Roughriders Head Coach & GM Chris Jones have a franchise great speak to the team in advance of Sunday’s game?
“No,” Jones smiled on Thursday. “We’re just gonna keep doing the things that we’ve been doing. We’re trying to trust our process, we’re in the weight room a lot, and making sure we’re ready to go. You don’t have to sit there and preach. They know what’s at stake. Our group’s relishing it and they’re enjoying the pressure that goes with winning in the playoffs.”
5 – We tend to think of the Roughriders as a young group but they’ve got plenty of veteran presence sprinkled in with the likes of Rob Bagg, Chad Owens, Kevin Glenn, Marcus Thigpen, Peter Dyakowski, Bakari Grant and a host of others.
I asked Bagg if this Grey Cup run is sweeter than those in the past given the hell this franchise has been through since the 2014 Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg.
“I’m not sure if anyone is more sweeter,” Bagg explained. “Every one’s just different. Calgary in 2009 was sweet because it was my first one. 2013 was sweet because we were at home. This one’s just different in its own way. The guys that have been here since 2014 when Darian got injured in Winnipeg, from that day forward, it’s been a grind. So to get back here, and reflect and all the work to get this opportunity again, I’m proud of the guys that are here and aren’t here anymore, everyone’s played a part in the process. Now it’s up to the 60-70 guys that are here to take advantage of the opportunity.”
6 – Chris Jones reported that Left Guard Brendon Labatte got some work in during Thursday’s practice but his status for Sunday’s EDF is still up in the air. The team’s Most Outstanding Lineman missed the Eastern Semifinal with a lower body injury.
7 – The Riders will practice Friday morning at Carleton before flying to Toronto. They’ll hold a walk-through on Saturday.