Jason Maas believes Cody Fajardo has a responsibility to protect himself, stay healthy for Riders

Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive coordinator Jason Maas wants quarterback Cody Fajardo to take better care of himself on the football field.

Fajardo took some hellacious hits while rising to star status with the Riders in 2019. He played through a separated shoulder and two torn oblique muscles last year. Maas wants the franchise QB to be in the best shape possible while directing his offence.

“Cody has a different skill set, one that can utilize his legs. What he does in the pocket and how he escapes the pocket at times, that’s him and that’s who he is and you don’t ever want to curtail that,” Maas told Mitchell Blair on 620 CKRM radio in Regina.

“My belief is as a starting quarterback you have a greater responsibility to your team to stay healthy, so taking unnecessary risks and hits is not something we’re going to try to do. That’s what I’ll try to alleviate.”

Since being hired by head coach Craig Dickenson in December, Maas has been watching film with Fajardo. The pair went through every game from Saskatchewan’s schedule a year ago. Fajardo ranked first in the CFL in passing yards (4,302) and checked in at number seven on the league’s rushing list with 107 carries for 611 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“The conversation I did have with Cody was, ‘Hey, you’re a great runner, I don’t want to take that away from you, in fact we’re going to utilize those strengths. But there’s going to be four or five times in a game you can protect yourself,'” Maas said.

“You definitely discuss it with him. Basically my biggest belief on coaching quarterbacks that can run is, if you can get through a progression, there’s less times you’re going to have to run.”

Fajardo signed a two-year contract extension through the 2021 season with the Riders in October, which pays over $400,000 annually. Maas wants to protect the investment and keep the No. 1 QB on the field every time out. It’s a philosophy Maas employed with Mike Reilly during their time together in Edmonton and one the play caller wants Fajardo to adopt.

“If you’re smart with the football, making good decisions, understanding the offence and the defences you’re seeing, and you’re comfortable with the offence that we’re putting in, that should allow you – as long as we’re getting protection up front, it’s his responsibility to get through the progression,” Maas said.

“If nothing is there, then he has to make the decision to take off. And once he takes off, that’s him, that’s who he is and you’re never going to take all that away from him.”

Maas provided an example situation: it’s second and 12 with Fajardo on the run and he’s staring at a pile of people for a four-yard gain, slide, get out of bounds and live to fight another day.

“That’s hard for a competitor and it’s hard for someone that’s great at running the ball to make those decisions, but that’s his responsibility as a starting quarterback,” Maas said.

“You’ve gotta be able to heed that advice and work through the offence that way. You need to be able to do that if you want to stay healthy for 18 games and we want to win a Grey Cup”

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