REGINA – The phrase “next man up” may seem like a cliche, but it’s been a reality this season for the injury-riddled Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Saskatchewan (3-1) heads into a showdown at home Friday against the winless Ottawa Redblacks (0-3) with a depleted roster.
Centre Dan Clark (broken fibula) and receiver Shaq Evans (fractured ankle) are out for extended periods, while quarterback Cody Fajardo (knee), receiver Duke Williams (hip), offensive lineman Terran Vaughn, kicker Brett Lauther (calf) and cornerback Nick Marshall (knee) are also dealing with injuries picked up in the first four games of the season.
The “next man up” mentality is something Fajardo understands.
He took advantage of such an opportunity when Riders quarterback Zach Collaros suffered a concussion on the first play of the 2019 season.
Fajardo went on to earn the starting spot with the Riders trading Collaros to the Toronto Argonauts midway through the season.
“Your window of opportunity in professional football, or any professional sport, is so small so when you are the next man up, you’ve got to take it seriously because if you don’t play your best, you can be sitting at home and not playing football anymore,” said Fajardo. “I think guys take that very seriously.”
The major change for the Riders because of injury this week comes on the offensive line. Vaughn, the left tackle, is dealing with a shoulder injury, so he’ll be replaced by Andrew Lauderdale.
Vaughn missed the 2021 season due to shoulder surgery and he’s currently dealing with soreness in the same shoulder.
Lauderdale, six-foot-six, 291-pounds started 11 regular-season games in 2021 and Riders head coach Craig Dickenson is confident he will be up to the challenge.
“We like Andrew, he’s played a lot of football for us and he’s gotten stronger,” said Dickenson. “One of the things he needed to work on last year was his anchor strength and he has worked on it and he’s gotten bigger. I think Andrew is going to go out and play a very good game.”
Dickenson says other teams have also picked up their share of injuries this season.
“We have had a lot of injuries but so have other teams. We started looking at the injury list yesterday and Jeremy (O’Day) and I saw that we’re not the only ones in this ship,” said Dickenson.
“It’s a very violent, physical game and every team has their share of injuries, some more than others. I think we would be in that category. But we’re hopeful that a lot of these injuries aren’t season enders. We’re hoping to get these guys back at some point during the season.”
The Redblacks are looking to pick up their first victory after opening the season with two losses against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and one to the B.C. Lions.
Despite Ottawa’s 0-3 record, the Riders are not taking the Redblacks for granted.
“They’ve lost three games but it’s been a total of 12 points, and they played Winnipeg and B.C. who are both undefeated,” said Dickenson. “Our guys know that’s a good team. Our focus has been on making sure we get ourselves right because we had a little shorter prep week than normal.”
OTTAWA REDBLACKS (0-3) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (3-1)
Friday, Mosaic Stadium
FLAG THEM DOWN: The Riders are having an issue with discipline this season and are leading the league with 50 accepted penalties for 480 yards. Montreal is second with 275 penalty yards and Winnipeg is third with 268 penalty yards.
RUNNING INTO HISTORY: Ottawa tailback William Powell needs 56 yards rushing to break into the CFL’s top 50 rushers of all-time. Powell, in his sixth CFL season, is closing in on Reggie Barnes who occupies the No. 50 spots with 4,771 career rushing yards.
COLLECTING QBS: The Riders lead the CFL with 21 sacks with defensive end Pete Robertson setting the pace with a league high seven sacks. Anthony Lanier is second with four sacks, three coming in Saskatchewan’s victory over Hamilton on July 2.