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REGINA — Every year the exact same question is asked to the starting quarterback of the host team for both the Eastern and Western Finals – ‘is it an advantage to have the bye week or does it take you out of rhythm’?
The Saskatchewan Roughriders don’t have the advantage of having a bye week but they did take every opportunity to rest their star pivot ahead of their Western Semi-Final showdown with the Calgary Stampeders on Sunday afternoon.
Darian Durant sat out last week’s season finale against the BC Lions – with their playoff fate already decided – and gave way to backups Drew Willy and JT O’Sullivan. The two pivots went a combined 17 for 26 for 140 yards and no touchdowns in a defensive-dominated loss in Vancouver.
Durant says he is more than ready to turn the switch back on when Sunday arrives but understands that winning and losing is the difference when looking back and deciding whether or not it was the right call.
“It can go either way. When you lose they say it’s a problem…when you win they say it’s a good thing”, Durant told CFL.ca.
Although Durant had made his way back into the lineup after a mid-season hip injury, he wasn’t fully healthy down the stretch.
“Whenever you are banged up a little bit it’s always good to get that extra rest”, he continued. “With me being a vet in the league, hopefully I don’t really need the reps and I can just step in and pick it up”
Head Coach Corey Chamblin and his quarterback approached the week as if he were coming off of injury rather than taking a breather, allowing Durant to still stay in his weekly routine, minus the playing time.
“Those guys still practice and good amount and the biggest thing is they had time to focus on Calgary”, Chamblin said. “As far as timing, it is a week-to-week (routine). It’s no different than when Darian came back from his injury after Montreal…he came back and he was firing from there.”
Both Chamblin and Durant admit that facing a Stampeders squad so many times leaves little to the unknown. Combine that with the fact that the Riders boss was a coordinator in Calgary the last time these two teams met in the playoffs and both agree that it is less about scheming and more about execution.
That didn’t stop Durant from trying to get a leg up on studying the Stampeders` defence with the extra time.
“I spent the majority of my time last week preparing for Calgary and a little bit of Toronto in case we had to go out there,” he said. “I put in the work as if we were playing them last week so I got a good week up on them as far as game planning is concerned and I feel good about the game plan going in.”
The Riders will practice one more time, on Friday morning, before flying to Calgary later in the day in preparation for Sunday’s matchup at 4:30 pm ET from McMahon Stadium.