May 15, 2024

A lighter Mason Fine hopes to light up defences

SASKATOON — Today’s food for thought: Fine dining.

While dutifully preparing delectable meals, Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Mason Fine lost some weight and gained in many other respects during a most productive off-season.

“I got back home and then I really just deer-hunted in November and December,” recalls the fourth-year CFLer, who is from Peggs, Okla. “I’d lived with my parents, but then I got my own place there at the beginning of December.

“I was able to make my own food and stick to a routine a little bit better while continuing to work out and get in good shape.

“I was just golfing, working out, throwing, and just living life, really.”

The 5-foot-11 Fine arrived at Coors Light Roughriders Training Camp with about 10 fewer pounds than he carried last season — quite a feat, when you consider that he was in excellent shape in the first place.

“I wanted to lean up,” the former University of North Texas Mean Green standout says.

“In college, I statistically felt the best in my junior year, so I wanted to get back to that weight. That meant dropping weight.

“That’s when I started testing my numbers with agility, 40s (40-yard sprints), cone drills and stuff like that, where I felt the best.

“I come out here and I feel great. Maybe that’ll help me avoid some of the hamstring issues, but I’m also going to be a little bit quicker out there and more mobile.

“Even though you lose weight, the football comes out with a little bit more of a flick now. I feel like the ball has more velocity and I just feel better out there to make any throw on the football field.”

Did willpower translate into increased arm power?

“It’s funny,” Fine, 27, says with a chuckle. “My whole life, being a smaller-stature guy, it was, ‘Gain weight, gain weight, gain weight.’

“Since I started playing football, I was always shoving food in my mouth, just to try to gain weight and get bigger.

“Now, once you’ve had a couple of years of playing professionally, it’s not about that anymore. It’s about your peak performance. That is what I’ve learned through trial and error.

“Honestly, it was pretty easy being disciplined. If I’m cooking the food, I’m only going to go to the grocery store and buy what I need. I’m not going to have any snacks in the pantry.

“It’s a nice reward when you look in the mirror and you can see a physical difference in your body.”

There are other changes to consider — such as the scheme being installed by first-year Offensive Co-ordinator Marc Mueller, who was on the Calgary Stampeders’ coaching staff from 2014 to 2023.

“Coach Mueller is a very smart guy,” Fine says. “He has been in the system for a decade now and he really knows his stuff.

“It’s a good system, with the reads, the progressions and just seeing where our eyes are at. It just makes sense and makes it kind of easy out there.

“You can study in the off-season and know your reads and where your eyes are at, but it’s always good to come out here on the field and actually rep it and then hopefully get better each day and keep stacking days.”

At the same time, Fine understands that the greatest weight will be attached to evaluations that emanate from the games — beginning with Monday’s pre-season collision with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2 p.m., Mosaic Stadium).

“I’ve got to go out there and prove it in games,” he says. “That’s what I’m about.”

Fine is part of a quarterbacking equation that also includes Trevor Harris, Shea Patterson, Antonio Pipkin and Jack Coan, the latter of whom is the only newcomer to Riderville.

Harris is ticketed to start. After that, the quarterbacking competition is wide open.

“You’ve always got to compete for your job,” says Fine, a six-time starter in the CFL who has thrown for 1,797 yards and six touchdowns since joining the Roughriders in 2021.

“No matter where you’re at on the depth chart or what position you are, you should always be competing, trying to do your best, and just pushing each other to perform to the best of your ability.

“I’ve got great teammates and good guys in that QB room to keep it a friendly, but good, competition. At the end of the day, you’ve got to compete every single day.”