The denizens of Rider Nation are waiting for news from Florida. They care about one thing. One thing only.
How is Darian Durant?
The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ starting quarterback hasn’t played since rupturing an Achilles tendon in the first quarter of the CFL team’s 2015 regular season. When the Roughriders held a three-day mini-camp in Vero Beach, Florida, there were two reporters at the event: Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post and Rod Pedersen of CKRM Radio. Both reporters are astute enough to know their audience cares only slightly about how new head coach/general manager/vice-president Chris Jones runs his mini-camp, whether receiver-turned-DB Jeremy Kelley can become an impact player on offence or defence, or how many fans are watching the workouts at Dodgertown.
When Durant gave himself an “A” for his opening-day performance, McCormick and Pedersen dutifully reported the grade.
Did you hear Saskatchewan sigh?
Durant reportedly looked fine throughout the subsequent two days of practices.
Durant also looked fine about a year ago, when he was recovering from a torn tendon in his throwing arm. It was another tendon that innocuously felled him and annihilated the Roughriders’ playoff chances in 2015, leading indeed to the replacement of general manager Brendan Taman, head coach Corey Chamblin, the entire coaching staff and almost the entire roster that had orchestrated a 3-15 season.
Durant turns 34 this season. He and his supporters chafe at the term “injury-prone,’’ but after starting his CFL career as a reliable workhorse he has certainly become less dependable than rival QBs Bo Levi Mitchell and ageless Henry Burris. Hence the reason why the Roughriders had nine other quarterbacks at mini-camp, including second year pivot Brett Smith, among the 100-plus participants who included only a few familiar names.
There needs to be a succession plan. One year ago the Roughriders realized they needed a reliable backup to Durant, who had missed most of 2014 with that torn elbow tendon, so they acquired veteran Kevin Glenn. Glenn performed OK on a losing team before he got hurt and was subsequently dumped.
Smith is trying to win the approval of Jones, offensive co-ordinator Stephen McAdoo and quarterbacks coach Jarious Jackson. So is Dan LeFevour, a four-year CFL veteran, and B.J. Coleman, who was noteworthy among the new quarterbacks at mini-camp.
Durant re-structured his contract in the offseason, at the team’s request, but he can still get paid close to his old salary of $450,000 if he performs well and often. There’s no doubt Durant is the starter, if healthy, and the Roughriders’ destiny is inexorably linked with his well-being. But based on the past two disastrous seasons it’s time for the Roughriders to start looking for his heirs. That search began in earnest in Florida.