DAVIS: With Collaros out, Bridge will finally get his chance to shine

There’s a faction of Saskatchewan Roughriders fans who always believed Brandon Bridge, despite his limited experience, should be the CFL team’s starting quarterback.

They’re about to get their wish, although it comes at the potentially costly expense of Zach Collaros, who started Saskatchewan’s first two games before being sidelined and placed on the six-game injury list with a concussion. Collaros wasn’t practising while Bridge led the starting offence Tuesday when the Roughriders held their first public workout since losing 40-17 Thursday to the home-town Ottawa Redblacks.

In addition to the pro-Bridge supporters, there’s also a contingent wondering why the Roughriders overpaid for Collaros, whose injury history and recent performances made him unworthy of the starting role. At the moment and for the unforeseeable future, the naysayers are winning.

Saskatchewan (1-1) plays host to the 0-2 Montreal Alouettes on Saturday.

A series of hits forced Collaros to leave the Ottawa game and undergo concussion protocol; he later returned to the sidelines in street clothes while Bridge operated Saskatchewan’s ineffective offence.

The Roughriders use the six-game injury list like many CFL teams do — when a player could miss more than one game they place him on the six-game injury list. GM/head coach Chris Jones told reporters the Roughriders were abiding by the CFL’s protocol for a “concussion-type situation” but didn’t specify how long Collaros might be sidelined. With only rookie David Watford behind Bridge on the depth chart, the Roughriders are expected to add another quarterback. Saskatchewan had been after Vernon Adams, but he chose Montreal.

A player can be activated early from the six-game injury list, but if he remains for the entire duration his salary during that time will not be counted against a team’s $5.2 million cap on players’ salaries.

That’s extra important in this case because the Roughriders are reportedly paying Collaros $430,000 annually, a slight decrease from what he was earning with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Collaros had major knee surgery while he was with the Ticats, plus he suffered at least two head injuries before losing his starting job (and 12 straight starts) to Jeremiah Masoli.

There was concern that Collaros was injury-prone and hadn’t fully recovered when the Roughriders traded for him. Still, his high salary guaranteed he would get the first opportunity to be the starter despite Jones’ claims that there would be a full competition during training camp.

Bridge was a moderately successful backup in 2017 — he started one contest last season — while regularly replacing starter Kevin Glenn, who was waived in the offseason and later joined the Edmonton Eskimos. Bridge often entered the game when the Roughriders’ offensive line was unable to protect Glenn. Based on the line’s porous performance against Ottawa, Bridge’s escapability may again be required.

Bridge re-signed before Collaros was acquired in the offseason for roughly half of Collaros’ salary. Bridge’s strong arm and running ability made him an exciting choice, but he was told by the Roughriders that he needed more game-time experience before he could assume the starter’s mantle. He’s about to get some of that experience.

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