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October 12, 2017

Notebook: The Roughriders turn a cold shoulder

The Saskatchewan Roughriders take on the Toronto Argonauts in CFL action on June 10th, 2017 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, SK. Liam Richards/Electric Umbrella

Football weather arrived Thursday.

The CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders held a walkthrough at Mosaic Stadium with a chilly wind blowing and a temperature of around 4 C.

A number of players who are new to the team gathered around a heater inside the stadium before the workout started, but other players took the temperature in stride while recognizing that the chill in the air means the arrival of the stretch drive.

“No one likes going out in the cold when, win or lose, you’re not going to the playoffs,” receiver Rob Bagg said. “When you’ve got everything on the line like we have, it certainly makes the day that much warmer and it’s easier to lock in mentally.

“Football is important right now and you know that based on the weather and the standings.”

The Roughriders enter Friday’s game against the visiting Ottawa Redblacks with an 8-6-0 record. A Saskatchewan win and a B.C. Lions loss Saturday to the host Winnipeg Blue Bombers will clinch at least a crossover playoff berth for the Roughriders.

Some players showed great enthusiasm in the climate Thursday — defensive linemen Willie Jefferson and A.C. Leonard doffed their shirts and practised with bare chests — while others simply went about their business as if nothing was different.

“Football players are a lot like kindergarten kids,” Roughriders head coach-GM Chris Jones said. “My mom’s a kindergarten teacher and that’s what they reminded me of out there today.

“It’s a little bit cold for the first time. It’s like when it rains for the first time, right? Everybody’s got a little bounce in their step.”

Other players were not bouncing — unless it was to keep warm. Jones said he told a couple of players that, if they think Thursday was cold, they’re in for a rude awakening.

As a 10-year member of the Roughriders, Bagg has seen his share of frosty weather, so he tries to help prepare his newer teammates for what’s coming.

“I tell them in a light-hearted way, ‘If you’re pulling out your sweatpants already, you’re going to be in trouble,’ ” Bagg said with a grin. “It’s important to be warm, of course, but as far as I’m concerned, today is a pretty beautiful day in October here in Saskatchewan.

“I say, ‘Approach (the cold) however you need to in order to perform at your highest level, but it is going to get worse before it gets better out here.’ At the end of the day, the other team has to perform in it too.

“While we’re not all from Regina or Saskatchewan, we’re here longer than the opposing team in most instances, so we have to take it as an opportunity to one-up the other guy. As much as I don’t like playing in the cold, I generally believe that the guy across from me hates it even more. That has been the way I get through it.”

•••

Chad Owens was on the 46-man roster the Roughriders issued Thursday morning, leading many to assume that the veteran receiver/returner would make his Saskatchewan debut Friday.

Jones nixed that idea during his media conference following the walkthrough, saying that Owens won’t be playing.

“He wants to play; he has been wanting to play since Week 1,” Jones said. “That’s just Chad. (If) you know Chad as long as I have, you know how bad he wants to play and how much he loves football. His energy is evident when you go out to practice.

“He’ll get his opportunity eventually, you would assume.”

The Roughriders signed Owens, 35, as a free agent in February with the hope that he could handle their returns. But the foot injury that ended his 2016 season early when he was a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats flared up in training camp and Owens’ participation in camp was limited.

He was on either the one- or six-game injured list for each of Saskatchewan’s first 14 regular-season games. Barring a late change of plans, he’ll be one of two reserves at game time Friday.

•••

Safety Mike Edem has spent the past three weeks on Saskatchewan’s six-game injured list — and that was enough for him.

Edem, who dislocated his right shoulder in the Roughriders’ 27-19 victory in Hamilton on Sept. 15, has been pulled off the six-game list early and will play Friday.

“It’s tough when you can’t go, but when you’re injured and you know physically that your body can’t go, then it’s a little bit more understandable,” Edem said. “At that point, the most important thing is getting back for my teammates and my coaches and that’s all I focused on.”

It’s the first time in Edem’s football career that he has suffered an injury that was serious enough for him to miss time. The University of Calgary product has never required surgery, but he always was aware that serious injuries can happen in a collision sport.

This time, one happened to him. Accepting that proved easier than Edem expected.

“You talk to the other guys on the team who are on the six-game,” he said. “You find a guy who’s going through the same thing, you talk to him, you see how he dealt with it and you use that to motivate yourself. You realize that if he can do it, you can do it, so you work together.

“When I was rehabbing, Cam (Marshall, Saskatchewan’s tailback) was someone who I rehabbed with. I was able to talk to Cam and bounce thoughts off him. We confided in each other and pushed each other through.”

Marshall remains on the shelf with a knee injury he suffered Sept. 3 against Winnipeg.

•••

The CFL announced Thursday that it had fined Roughriders linebacker Sam Eguavoen for spearing Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray during Saskatchewan’s 27-24 road victory on Saturday.

Eguavoen wasn’t penalized for the hit during the game.

As per league policy, the amount of the fine wasn’t disclosed.