48 hours prior to Darian Durant’s first return to Saskatchewan as a member of the Montreal Alouettes, the amp is already building for “The Return of Darian”.
Rider fans were talking about it as early as Monday, and news media outlets are ramping up their coverage as kickoff nears.
However as far as the Saskatchewan Roughriders are concerned, they’re planning a rude welcome for Durant and the Alouettes as Saskatchewan looks for their 10th win of the season.
“It’s not like I’m game planning for (former Rider greats),” offered veteran receiver Rob Bagg on Wednesday. “I have full trust that my defense is going to show up. Unfortunately I think it’s gonna be a long day for one of my best friends.”
Durant has already been tabbed as the starting quarterback for the 3-13 Alouettes for Friday’s game (7:30 pm, TSN, 620 CKRM Rider Network). The Riders feel the franchise great will be given his proper due prior to kickoff.
“He was a very good player for a long time for this organization,” Riders Head Coach & GM Chris Jones said on Wednesday. “He did a lot of good things. Regardless of who they play at quarterback, we’re just gonna line up and play good football.”
As far as both sides seem to be concerned, the tenous nature of Durant’s departure last January seems to be water under the bridge 10 months later.
“Times have changed but certainly while he was here, I think he’ll be looked upon as a big part of our success in the 2000s and beyond,” Bagg continued. “I think he’ll be greeted appropriately but I think he’ll turn into a visitor by the second series.”
One of Durant’s closest friends is veteran Rider receiver Chris Getzlaf. While Getzlaf will remain on the practice roster for Friday’s game, he knows Durant will be excited for his return to Regina.
“I think he’s looking forward to it,” Getzlaf said. “He’s a legend here. There’s no doubt about it. The career that he had in Saskatchewan is nothing short of amazing. I’m sure he’s looking forward to the chance to play in this beautiful new facility.”
But, still, the Riders don’t feel the need to roll out the welcome mat. The focus this week has been on dominating the Alouettes, and not getting caught in a “trap game”
“In pro football, anyone can win on any given day,” Rob Bagg revealed. “I’ve always believed that. In 2011, Winnipeg had a great season but we beat them twice that year. If you don’t prepare and you don’t take people seriously – everybody has talent at this level – you need to prepare properly.”
NOTES: Chris Jones announced on Wednesday that running back Cameron Marshall, receiver Naaman Roosevelt and linebacker Sam Eguavoen will all miss this game due to injury … Jones maintained that Duron Carter will see action on both offense and defense in this game.