The Saskatchewan Roughriders held their first closed practice of the year on Thursday, their final full practice before Saturday’s game at Calgary (7:00 pm, TSN, CKRM Rider Radio Network).
Here are some notes and quotes from the session:
– With the practice being closed, their was no roster information disclosed. Canadian tailback Kienan LaFrance got some work earlier in the week and Head Coach Chris Jones said a determination on his availability would be made today. However nothing was announced for Saturday’s game.
– Is A.J. Jefferson going to make his Rider debut against the Stampeders? Buy a ticket.
– With the practice closed from the prying eyes of fans and media, Jones was asked how it went.
“Had a pretty good day,” Jones remarked. “We worked on all of our stuff that we need to try to win the game in all three phases. It wasn’t quite as good as yesterday but it was clean. There weren’t people in the stands or on the sidelines – which was a little bit weird for us – but it allowed us to do everything we needed to do to secure our game plan.”
– Quarterback Kevin Glenn was asked how big of a game this is for his Roughriders, and what a win would mean for the club.
“It’ll be a big character win for us,” Glenn said. “To go on the road against a very good team that hasn’t lost at home for awhile. We need to match their intensity because they’re coming off a loss so they’ll be looking to get back on track. They’re a very consistent team. They go into consecutive seasons with the same guys but they also have guys waiting on the bench to go in if a guy gets hurt with no drop-off in productivity. I’ve seen it personally when I was there. And they don’t make mistakes. They thrive on the details.”
– I asked Glenn where Calgary’s McMahon Stadium rates out of CFL facilities.
“Out of the nine? As a visitor?” Glenn smiled. “If you’re on the Roughriders it’s a close #2 or #3 because sometimes it feels like a home game with all that green in the stands. It’s one of the nice stadiums to play in in the league but every stadium in the league has its own little presence.”
– Defensive end Willie Jefferson is amped up for Saturday’s game. He thinks the Riders match up well against Calgary.
“It’s a real big key for us to stay disciplined,” Jefferson offered. “With us we want to stay disciplined, get the crowd behind us because we know there’s going to be a lot of Rider fans there, get the crowd behind us, stay focused and do the job we’ve been practicing on all week.”
Jefferson’s had plenty of battles against Stampeders bruising tailback Jerome Messam over the years but says the task of containing him isn’t too daunting.
“Get to him early. Get to him before he starts moving around,” Jefferson said of their game plan. “He tries to be a big back but we know if we get to him early, it’s not that hard to stop him. For our defense, we have so many key players, we feel like we can match with them player-for-player. We plan on winning those one-on-ones.”
– Jefferson was asked where he’d rate the Stampeders’ offensive line.
“They’re alright,” Jefferson said coolly. “They have a great QB, a great organization and coaching staff, but me playing D-line, I feel like we have a good chance of making things happen.”
– In his first full year with Saskatchewan, Willie Jefferson has already become a fan favourite in the Rider Nation. He was particularly popular at Crave’s Country Thunder on the weekend. The Stephen F. Austin product is soaking it all up.
“I love being a Roughrider!” Jefferson smiled. “Riderville is the place to be. There’s no other feeling like coming out of that tunnel on game day. And going other places and seeing all that green, it’s amazing. They know who I am now. It’s hard to miss me. They notice my smile, my gold teeth, my chains, and they just walk up to me and say ‘Are you Willie Jefferson?’ It’s whatever man. It comes with the territory. I love the recognition.”