CFLPA ‘hot’ after Riders’ Achilles incident occurs in alleged team-led workout that ‘should not have happened’: report

Photo courtesy: Hannah Souster

Details continue to emerge concerning a pre-training camp workout session that saw four Saskatchewan Roughrider suffers potentially season-ending Achilles injuries in the span of six minutes and things are not looking good for the team.

Players in quarantine who had recorded three negative COVID tests were allowed to do their own workouts at Mosaic Stadium without the presence of coaches, but TSN insiders Farhan Lalji and Dave Naylor report those rules may have been violated.

“[The Riders] believe they were following the protocols and policies that the Canadian Football League had allowed. No coaches were on the field, but there is a bit of a grey area around Clinton Spencer, who is technically the club’s strength and conditioning trainer, so they view him as part of the medical staff not the coaching staff,” Lalji explained.

“From the PA perspective, it doesn’t really matter because team-led activities were not supposed to happen. This was supposed to be simply about player’s getting access to the facility and then doing their own or small group workouts, but in fact this was a large group of players on the field, basically everybody that was available. Dozens of players were out there, so from a PA perspective this definitely should not have happened.”

Defensive back Ryan Carter and receiver Teo Redding from the Montreal Alouettes also suffered Achilles injuries Thursday, though the details of that incident are not yet known.

The CFLPA issued an internal memo on Friday expressing “great concern” that player safety protocols had been violated, promising to “continue to seek answers and demand more rigorous oversight.” Lalji described the Players’ Association as “hot,” as he reported the details of the conflict.

According to Naylor, all four players were injured during a drill in which a medicine ball is tossed in the air and players race to complete a task before the ball hits the ground. The drill, which the Riders “have used for years,” did not initially raise concern with the players, but does not align with the non-competitive nature of the activity described by general manager Jeremy O’Day at an emergency press conference Thurday.

“One person described it to me as a ‘very competitive drill,'” Naylor said.

The focus now shifts to preventing future incidents and ensuring all players are financially compensated. Because training camp has not yet started, the Riders are under no obligation to pay any of the four injured players.

In the case of veterans Larry Dean and Freddie Bishop III, they are likely to be treated as if the incident had occurred in camp and given certain guarantees. For rookie Canadians Nelson Lokombo and Jonathan Femi-Cole, the team could have released them outright with no penalty had the injury occurred during the official practices. A heated CFLPA is now working to ensure all are taken care of.