- Free Agency
Labour Day Weekend is here and the fans are converging on Regina for a few days of fun, frivolity and football.
And the 2014 edition of the classic between the Roughriders and Blue Bombers has a lot of buzz.
Not only are the two teams among the best in the league, which is rare for both teams to be near the top at the same time, but they are also back in the same division for the first time since 2005.
Then there is a 5’8 receiver named Weston Dressler, who makes his debut after the sweepstakes for his services ended on Thursday morning when he signed a one-year deal with the Roughriders.
#7 was the fan favourite during the team’s fan day on Saturday, getting applauded when he went in the tunnel to meet the media and then he was greeted with the loudest cheer when officially introduced.
For Dressler, he just wants to get on the field again after a disappointing pre-season with the Kansas City Chiefs.
“Really every game I play in I feel like that first catch kind of the one that gets you loose and gets you going.”
His quarterback, Darian Durant, is mindful that the fans will be itching to lose their mind when Dressler catches his first pass in his return this weekend.
“It’ll happen for sure. The thing I don’t want to do is try to force feed him and miss out on some other opportunities out there.”
Dressler steps right off a training camp in the NFL into a fierce playoff race battle, in the biggest rivalry game of the year.
“It’s a big adjustment. I think it will take me to kind of get settled in and understand where this team is at and where the season is going. I did follow the team pretty closely while I was away so I kind of understand that a little bit.”
What Dressler does give the team is another big play weapon on offence that has been lacking that big play mentality this season.
And there won’t be many teams in the league who can add such a weapon at mid-season without making a trade or waiting for another NFL cut.
The timing couldn’t be better, with a division rival and the stage of the Labour Day Classic.
There is a lot on the line over the next two weeks for the Riders and Bombers as they go back to back.
A sweep of this series will have them at or near the top of the division and having Winnipeg back in the West Division puts a little more importance on this annual ‘Classic’.
“It definitely adds a lot to (this game), especially knowing there is going to be a good team in the West that doesn’t make the playoffs” explains Durant.
“Every game is important and with the way our schedules are set up down the stretch you’re pretty much playing Western teams and we know if we win this game we win the season series so we’re definitely looking at the big picture when it comes to these games.”
Durant will play in this game banged up, admitting he feels pain every time he throws the football after leaving last week’s game against B.C. with a hand injury.
He’ll fight through the pain but will pull himself if he feels he’s not helping the team, but there wouldn’t be much that would hold him back from playing in this game. He even joked only wearing cast on his throwing hand would keep him off the field.
There’s energy at Mosaic Stadium that even a cagey veteran who has started the last five Labour Day Classics has a hard time describing.
“There is an extra intensity for this game, especially with it being Winnipeg, our neighbour over there in the prairies. It’s always fun to beat them for bragging rights. That’s something that we have right now and we hope to continue that.”
There is also history on the line for Durant.
The Riders have won nine straight Labour Day games and Durant is trying to pass Ron Lancaster in the Riders record books as the most winningest quarterback in Bombers/Riders Labour Day Classic.
The party has already begun in Saskatchewan, now they just have to play the game.