Riders can’t fold just because Durant is down

While the Saskatchewan Roughriders play hide-and-seek with their injured quarterback, Darian Durant, it’s important to remember the words of Montreal Alouettes receiver Nik Lewis.

Just the printable words. Lewis used lots of profanities in a recent post-game tirade, but his point was well-made after Montreal’s latest loss: Should a team not show up just because its starting quarterback is injured?

There’s a good lesson for the Roughriders, who have become a pitiful team when Durant isn’t in the lineup. All is not lost. Or is it?

Plagued by torn tendons that have sidelined Durant basically for the past 1 1/2 seasons, the Roughriders went 5-21 without him in 2014-2015. They’re also 0-3 this season with Durant starting all three contests, including the 40-27 loss last week against the visiting B.C. Lions, during which he suffered a sprained ankle when barrel-rolled by Mic’hael Brooks, a defensive lineman and serial roughing-the-passer culprit. Durant stayed in the game for one more play, tossing a touchdown pass to Rob Bagg before limping off the field.

Durant isn’t the reason Saskatchewan remains the CFL’s only winless team. He’s played well while the Roughriders’ rebuilt defence — featuring zero starters from last season — has shown serious deficiencies: minimal pass rush, secondary breakdowns and conservative play-calling at the wrong times.

Mitchell Gale, a journeyman quarterback who has seen limited action with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts, took over the reins of Saskatchewan’s offence despite being with his new team for less than two weeks.

Gale was expected to start Friday when the Ottawa Redblacks, the CFL’s only undefeated team (3-0-1), visit Saskatchewan. But Durant attended the Riders’ practice Tuesday, sans crutches or a cast or a walking boot, and spent 30 minutes of the 90-minute workout trying to prove he can play.

Durant didn’t meet reporters. Being injured, apparently, excludes him from that task. And all the team’s quarterbacks have a media-free day on Wednesday, so medical updates have to come from Saskatchewan’s head coach, Chris Jones.

“It’s a long season and for us to put somebody at risk… unless he can prove to me that he’s well, he won’t play,’’ Jones told a media scrum.

There is some urgency, however. Losing another game puts the Roughriders in a nasty freefall that could prevent any realistic chance of making the playoffs. Risking Durant’s long-term health isn’t worth that chance, even though it’s evident the team can’t win much without him.

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.