Head coach Craig Dickenson wants to keep Riders’ core together for 2021

The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ bench boss wants the core of the 2019 roster to return for 2021.

After finishing first place in the West Division standings last year, the green and white were focused on making it to the Grey Cup at Mosaic Stadium this November. However, commissioner Randy Ambrosie and the board of governors voted to cancel the 2020 season, which shifted the focus to 2021.

“All of us are going ahead with the mindset that we’re going to play in 2021 come hell or high water and we’re going to find a way to do it, so I think it’s going to happen,” Dickenson said emphatically.

When the Riders start competing on the field again, quarterback Cody Fajardo will be leading the way as he’s signed through the 2021 season. Offensive stalwarts such as running back William Powell, receiver Shaq Evans, receiver and returner Kyran Moore and centre Dan Clark are pending free agents in February.

CFL contract lengths: Saskatchewan Roughriders

On defence, pass rusher Charleston Hughes, linebackers Solomon Elimimian and Cameron Judge along with the entire starting defensive backfield have expiring contracts — Nick Marshall, Ed Gainey, Mike Edem, Loucheiz Purifoy and L.J. McCray. Otha Foster was tabbed to replace Derrick Moncrief at strong-side linebacker, but he’ll need to be re-signed if he’s in the future plans.

“(General manager) Jeremy (O’Day) and I have talked about our team, who we’d like to have back, what their contracts are, what we expect the contracts to look like next year. The reality is we won’t be able to bring everybody back, but we’re going to try to bring our core of our team back, which I think we can,” Dickenson said.

“Any time you have a good veteran team, that’s always a fine line to walk between a good veteran team, and a team that may be getting a little old. That’s something we’re going to talk about this off-season. Most of our core players and our leaders are still in the prime of their careers.”

Dickenson stated most of the players who were signed for the 2020 season are wanted back in 2021. There could be a few guys on the edge or possibly deciding to retire. The head coach has communicated with them all while making sure they’ve stayed in shape and are preparing to play next year.

If the league does indeed return to action in 2021, Dickenson wants to see a full training camp, preseason, 18-game regular season schedule and Grey Cup playoffs because that’s when the quality of football is at its best. Ideally, it happens with fans in the stands, but he acknowledged that nobody can predict where the pandemic will be in the spring.

“The chances are very good,” Dickenson said. “That’s what we’re all hoping for and working towards. It’s full steam ahead for our staff.”

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