The Saskatchewan Roughriders have an open door policy as training camp continues in Saskatoon.
Head coach and general manager Chris Jones said it before camp began and he reiterated this week the door to every job on the final 46-man roster and practice roster is open and up for grabs during this year’s training camp.
In reality, you can likely scratch one job off that list as it would take a Herculean effort from one of the other quarterbacks to dethrone franchise pivot Darian Durant as the team’s starting slinger, even then, that might not be enough. After that though, the open approach to training camp is a fresh change that was badly needed in Saskatchewan.
This camp is the first since 2012 where it legitimately feels like jobs are up for grabs, even if you have a history of performance with the team. Over the last few years, Corey Chamblin favoured his veteran players and more or less stuck to the roster he had in mind before camp as the season began. That was never more evident then it was last year when ageing veterans like Taj Smith were clearly beat out by younger players but still they remained as starters to open the season. It wasn’t just veterans who got the benefit of the doubt either, Rory Connop was forced into starting at defensive tackle when he clearly wasn’t ready.
This year, you get the feeling that tough decisions will be made if Jones’ hand is forced. Fans often wonder why players like Clarence Denmark are taken off the “scrap heap” so to speak. Denmark is an example of a player who is brought in to set the bar and if someone surpasses him then you make the change and the team is better off. Jones, it appears, won’t be afraid to make those decisions. It’s heartless and cold, but that’s the name of the game. As Jones has said, he’s here to compete and win, not make friends.
At the same time, these possible changes are easy for a head coach and general manager in their first year with a team. Save for a few free agents, Jones has no loyalty or history with most of these players. During his first season with the team, Chamblin released veteran defensive back and fan favourite Lance Frazier. Jones may have similar decisions ahead of him this year.
The true test of Jones will be if he continues to make similar decisions however long he remains in Saskatchewan. Right now, there’s no reason to believe he won’t and he will have to if he wants to build the sustainable success president and CEO Craig Reynolds is looking for.