Riders camp begins in the shadow of injuries

Riders QB Cody Fajardo was on the field for Thursday’s fateful practice.

“Honestly, it felt like it was straight out of a movie,” the Riders QB says. “I’ve been here for a year and we’ve done (that drill) multiple times and nothing like that has happened.”

Four players tore an Achilles tendon doing a single drill on Thursday. Linebacker Larry Dean, defensive end Freddie Bishop, defensive back Nelson Lokombo and running back Jonathan Femi-Cole are all out for the season.

“That was a gut shot,” says Head Coach Craig Dickenson. “That was something I’ve never experienced in all my years of football. Not even close.”

“We could do it a million times and I don’t think you see four the same exact injuries happen,” says Fajardo. “I just think it was a super-fluke thing.”

Training camp began Saturday without the four players. But Dickenson says the bad feeling remains.

“I felt the emotion today was good but I think the team is still in a little bit of shock to be honest,” he says.

The drill involved throwing a medicine ball in the air and then taking off sprinting. The four players all suffered their devastating injuries in the span of a few minutes. Because training camp hadn’t started, coaches couldn’t be out on the field leading drills.

“I wish the coaches could have been out there, to be quite honest with you,” says Dickenson. “I don’t think you’d have seen four if there’d have been coahces on the field. But there’s not a lot we can do after that. We’ll certainly look at everything that we’ve done going up to this. I believe there’s a lot of factors that led to it but ultimately it’s our responsibility as coaches and as leaders to take care of our people. And we failed in that.

“We asked the team to basically let us earn their trust back and I felt like today was a good step in that direction.”

Because of the four injuries Dickenson chose to make changes to Saturday’s training.

“We were hoping to have one on ones,” he says. “We were going to have a 10-minute one-on-one period. As a result of what happened I took the one-on-ones out. We stayed apart all day today. We didn’t have any competitive periods whatsoever.

“Hopefully by (Monday) we’ll feel like they’ve got enough of their legs back and are used to the turf again that we can start doing a little more competitive stuff.”

All of the players who spoke Saturday expressed sympathy for their injured teammates. And at the same time acknowledged that injuries are a part of every team’s season.

“It’s definitely something that’s in the back of your head,” says receiver Shaq Evans. “But at the end of the day we’ve all been playing football for years and we know that things just happen. We’ve all probably had surgery at some point–I’ve had four surgeries in my life so I know what’s it’s like to be hurt. It’s definitely something that’s in the back of your head. But at the end of the day you just move forward and you control what you can control and you can’t worry about stuff you can’t control.”

Dickenson was asked if he expects the Riders to be punished by the CFL.

“I just don’t know,” he says. “We did everything we could in terms of following the protocols–there was no footballs out there, we were trying to stay spaced, we were keeping the guys from the dorm, that came into the country, away from the local players. I’m sure the league’s not happy. Trust me, we’re not happy either. It’s going to hurt us for a while.”

Several Riders were not on the field Saturday because they haven’t finished their quarantine. Players expected to return this week include:

CB Nick Marshall
LB Deon Lacey
DB Blace Brown
QB Paxton Lynch
OL Antonio Garcia
DL Tim Wiliams
DB Mike Stevens

Coach Dickenson says LB Gary Johnson Jr and DT Sterling Shippy are new fathers and will arrive in Saskatchewan shortly.

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