Riders QB Cody Fajardo on cancelled CFL season: ‘You don’t realize what you have until you lose it’

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

The Canadian Football League is special to Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo.

After the CFL cancelled its 2020 season, Fajardo’s heart has grown fonder of the three-down league.

“You don’t realize what you have until you lose it. A lot of players, a lot of fans especially, staff members, are going to realize how much they truly do love the CFL not having it for a whole year,” Fajardo said on The Rouge Report podcast.

“I know me personally, when I step back on the field again for the first time I’m going to be very thankful, and I just miss it completely. I don’t ever want something like that to happen again, unless I’m truly just walking away from the game.”

After the Canadian federal government denied the league a $30 million interest-free loan, the board of governors decided against accepting money with interest rates attached and owners funding the season. It means Fajardo will have to wait an entire year before trying to pick up the momentum of his impressive 2019 display.

“22 years of football in my life year after year — the one silver lining is my body gets a year away from football which is really nice to think about. But mentally I’m happiest when I’m playing football and I know a lot of us around the league are. That’s what’s going to be tough, trying to stay happy without football in your life,” Fajardo said.

Fajardo led the Riders to a 12-4 record throwing for 4,302 yards while completing over 71 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns against eight interceptions in his first season as a No. 1 QB. The dual-threat pivot used his legs for 611 yards and 10 touchdowns on 107 rushing attempts, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He was named the West Division Most Outstanding Player after came within a goalpost of taking the green and white to the Grey Cup.

“The positive in me thinks that we’re not going to skip a beat next year, there’s just a lot of uncertainties going into it. Now knowing the answer, and not being strung along anymore, and not trying to figure out what we’re going to do for 2020, and just focus everything on 2021, we can make this next year a truly incredible year,” Fajardo said.

“Moving forward we just need to put all of our chips into 2021 making it the best CFL season, ever. Market the heck out of it, make sure there’s excitement about it. I’ve seen a lot of people talking about we don’t know if the virus is going to quite be over by then, if it’s not over by next summer then we are struggling as a world. There will be a vaccine soon.”

Last October, Fajardo signed a two-year contract extension through the 2021 season. He received an active roster bonus of $175,000 on February 1. That’s more than what he earned in 2019, which was approximately $150,000. Fajardo feels even his deal could be tinkered with before returning north of the border next year.

“There is so much uncertainty still with contracts between coaches, between players. Overall restructures of the league and salary cap is going to happen,” Fajardo said.

“Guys are going to have to take pay cuts and move teams. And the thing everyone is dreading is the free agent frenzy, if everybody’s contracts are voided because you’re not getting paid.”

The 28-year-old signal caller doesn’t want to cast blame on commissioner Randy Ambrosie or anyone else for that matter. He wants to come together as a collective and look forward as a unified group to ensure the future viability of the league. The extra long off-season can provide increased time to be setup for kick-off next June.

“The last thing we need to do is start pointing fingers at who did what wrong. We need to rally together more than ever,” Fajardo said.

“We dropped the ball somewhere, somehow, but if we’re going to divide each other up and start pointing blame, we’ll never be able to make it to 2021. Now is the time for us to rally.”