Pedersen: Riders change off-season mentality | CFL.ca | Official Site of the Canadian Football League
 
 
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Decades have come and gone since Ron Lancaster was patrolling the field as quarterback of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and later as head coach. 

While the “Little General” left us in September of 2008, a comment of his in a television documentary on the CFL always stuck with me.  Lancaster was discussing how no matter where he went, whether it be the grocery store, a coffee shop or a local gymnasium, people approached him to discuss the Green & White. 

Adding Experience


The Lions added some much needed experience by signing the likes of receiver Geroy Simon, DB Dwight Anderson and rush end Ricky Foley.
» Foley ready for next chapter
» Newest DB making no apologies
» Different jersey, same Simon
» Morris: Simon has a lot to prove
» Superman Simon flies to Saskatchewan

Ronnie chuckled to the camera that he often felt like saying “Can we talk about something else please?”

Of course, we can’t.

So it comes as no surprise that the off-season moves of the Roughriders in the winter of 2013 are a white-hot topic on the streets and on coffee-row across the Wheat Province.  What am I hearing?  That Rider fans are giving the thumbs-up to the acquisition of Geroy Simon, Dwight Anderson, Tristan Black, Weldon Brown and Ricky Foley. 

But it comes with a hitch.

Anderson, a veteran defensive back of the league with a 2008 Grey Cup ring from the Stampeders, and Foley, a ferocious defensive end with two Grey Cup rings (2006 with BC and 2012 with Toronto), both come with checkered pasts. Some fans have wondered aloud if the Riders are going back to the Shivers/Barrett era when the team employed some serious bad actors. However, this is different. 

A lot different.  Although Anderson and Foley have ruffled feathers with their on-field antics over the years, there are no reports of them ever getting into trouble off the field.  It’s pointless to name names from a decade or so ago, but it’s worth noting that these new players don’t figure to cast a dim light on this proud franchise.

Rider Assistant GM Jeremy O’Day said last week that the Roughriders have worked hard to field a team of solid citizens and they’re proud of the image they have across the league and within their own province. It’s clear they would not have signed these players without doing some serious background checks.

“Dwight Anderson is one of the best cover guys in the league,” O’Day told 620 CKRM.  “That’s the way we evaluated him and (head coach ) Corey Chamblin has a history with him so he knows what we’re getting involved with.  And Dwight has had a history with the Riders and we’ve had some interesting games against him.  But we’ve done our homework.

“It’s interesting how the attitude of free agents toward Saskatchewan has changed.  I know that when I first got here (in 1999) people were asking ‘why would you sign with the Roughriders?’ and ‘why would you come here?’ but now they want to come here.  Free agents call us and when players get released, they call us.  It’s a good situation and Dwight wanted to be here.  Obviously we understood his history  and we wouldn’t have signed him if we thought it would be a huge problem in the locker room.  We do feel like we have a good locker room that does minimimize those issues.  Hopefully he plays hard and is a shutdown guy for us.”

O’Day continued with his reasoning for going against the grain with this winter’s free agent signings.

“As for Ricky Foley, I can honestly say he’d be a prime candidate for ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’.  Looking at him, you’d think he’s something different than what he is but when you hear him talk, you wonder if you’re talking to the same person.  I’ve never had a conversation with him until we had an opportunity to sign him as a free agent.  He’s quite different than what I would have thought and I think people will like him.  We did our homework on him too.  It’s a small league so you can find out pretty much information on players you want.”

That’s good enough for me.

It’s also worth noting that, so far, Saskatchewan has taken a vastly different approach to its recruiting from a year ago.  In the winter of 2012 the team was sending out news releases almost daily about the raft of players they had signed who were former NFL draft picks. 

Once camp rolled around there were almost 20 new players with NFL backgrounds.  However this year the club is going with more-established veterans of the league who boast championship experience.

“Last year we changed two-thirds of the roster and we went from one of the oldest teams to one of the youngest,” O’Day explained. 

“We saw after 2011 that we needed to upgrade our roster.  We can’t go totally younger because then you’ll be in trouble and you’ll be taken advantage of but we did go younger with the former NFL guys.  This year we picked up some vets via free agency but we’re not gonna stop there.  We’ll have some signings coming forward and we feel like we have some good ones.”

Although buried in a myriad of meetings and also piles of paper and player video auditions, O’Day is still visible enough in the community that he gets asked these questions too while out and about.  The salary questions come up a lot.

“It’s surprising how often you get asked,” O’Day admitted.  “Everyone knows there’s a cap and you have to stick to it.  For us it’s something we’re aware of and we know where our limits are.  It’s just budgeting.

“That’s our job and that’s what we do on a daily basis.  Our job in football ops is to give the coaches as many tools as possible to win.  With the ratio, the kicking game, so they can make the best decisions and put the best team on the field.  That’s what it’s all about.”

So, as we trudge our way through the off-season and count down the days to training camp in Saskatoon, we continue to field hundreds of questions about our football team.  It goes with the territory.

And as Lancaster admitted in that TV interview from years ago, “Once you leave, you kind of miss it.”

About Rod

Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Saskatchean Roughriders on 620 CKRM. You can check out his award-winning blog at www.rodpedersen.com. Follow Rod on Twitter @sportscage.

Fan Comments
arthurmichener
Chris McKenzie, whats the deal with him. No mention at all since free agency started and I dont see that he signed anywhere, whats the story as I thought he was a valuable team member, no?
March 19, 2013 - 2:56pm
 
saskfan56
Those teams aren't castoffs, they're great, that's why they deserve better support. I for one would love to see it, would make for a far better league if the larger centers filled their larger stadiums.
March 10, 2013 - 12:28pm
als rule
let it go it seems your incapable of understanding with the east's connection with stade molson stadium and wanting Varsity stadium made over for the argos!!
March 10, 2013 - 11:36pm
 
*C*F*L*
Well, at least they didn't hire Tillman... Again.
March 09, 2013 - 10:37am
 
tabbiefanmcb
Well it will be interesting to see if the BC, Montreal and Toronto cast-offs have good seasons in Rider Nation. If not, they will hear about it from the fans!
March 08, 2013 - 7:51pm
als rule
quite true!!
March 09, 2013 - 10:46am
 
saskfan56
As for Rod, I listen to him do the Rider games, don't sell him short, one of the more knowledgeable play by play guys I've heard.
March 08, 2013 - 6:37pm
als rule
and how many play by play men have you listened to? one? two? three? four? or more?
March 09, 2013 - 11:11am
saskfan56
Well, probably not as many as you, but I listen to Stamps games as well and its brutal at times. The best I ever heard was Eric Bishop (deceased) out of Calgary during those wild Sask-Calgary games back in the late 60's, early 70's, probably far before your time, AR. ha. R.I.P. Eric
March 10, 2013 - 12:20pm
als rule
I always enjoyed JOHNNY ESAW and ANNIS STUKIS on TV!! the sound of johnny's voice!!
March 10, 2013 - 9:37pm
 
saskfan56
Guess we'll see about DA, I recall a certain receiver that didn't do much in green and white, yet catches just about anything thrown at him in Als Land. I'm sure you're familiar with Jamal Richardson, smile. Then again he has AC throwing at him but you never know what the change of scenery might do.
March 08, 2013 - 6:31pm
als rule
jamel had a minor career in regina and left for a NFL try out and returned to sign a CFL contract with montreal!! DA started in hamilton, calgary, montreal and now regina!! 4 teams in a 8 team league!! change of scenery indeed!! BUT point taken!!
March 09, 2013 - 11:08am
 
als rule
sorry BUT another funny article from rod!! "foley ferocious DE" can it be funnier and assistant GM O'day "DA one of the best cover guys in the league" well not while he was in montreal!!
March 07, 2013 - 9:47pm