Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo was on the field when four of his teammates went down with Achilles tendon tears in a single workout session.
Fajardo and his group of Riders were doing an explosion drill where a medicine ball is thrown as high into the air as possible and the participating athlete then sprints as far as possible prior to the ball hitting the ground.
“It felt like it was straight out of a movie. I’ve been here for a year, in 2019 we’ve done those workouts multiple times and nothing like that has ever happened. Guys love that drill because it’s a way to make working out fun. It’s a drill in my personal opinion that I look forward to,” Fajardo said in a videoconference.
“It’s not like it was some random new drill that we just threw in, we’ve done those before. We could do it a million times and I don’t think you’d see four of the same exact injuries happen, I just think it was a super fluke thing.”
Projected starting middle linebacker Larry Dean, defensive lineman Freddie Bishop III, 2021 first-round CFL Draft pick, defensive back Nelson Lokombo, and 2020 sixth-round choice, running back Jonathan Femi-Cole suffered season-ending Achilles injuries.
“I’m praying for those guys. It’s tough when you don’t get to see day one of training camp. You’re trying to get your body back into shape, but I talked to those guys and let them know I’m praying for them,” Fajardo said.
“It was a shock around the entire league, but we’re here for them and they’re going to be a part of this team. I’m just trying to keep those guys positive and motivated.”
Fajardo’s favourite target, all-star receiver Shaq Evans had gone through the exact same workout, which included the medicine ball drill, approximately hours before the four Achilles snapped on the Mosaic Stadium turf.
“It definitely hurts your heart seeing somebody go down like that because you hear the pop, and you hear the scream, and you just see them drop — it definitely resonates with you,” Evans said reflecting on serious injuries witnessed in the past.
“It was a freak accident. It’s a drill we’ve done multiple times since I’ve been on the team and that’s never happened. I don’t think that’s happened on any team in football history to have four Achilles injuries on one day.”
Evans doesn’t believe the CFL Players’ Association needs to look into what happened. He didn’t feel the drill was out of place or unnecessary. The 30-year-old playmaker was part of the local player group after having been in Regina for around a month before training camp was scheduled to begin.
“I feel horrible for those guys, I talked to each and every one of them in the locker room after it happened and told them good luck and we’ll be there for them as best we can,” Evans said.
Canadian defensive back Mike Edem, like Fajardo, was on the field when the setbacks occurred. The veteran defender sees the union simply doing its due diligence by investigating the incident as the CFLPA’s job is to protect the players at all times.
“It’s football, it’s part of the game, it comes with the territory — we know what we signed up for. What happened is very unfortunate because those are our brothers,” Edem said.
“As competitors and as athletes, we have a job to do, so next man up and get the job done. It’s unfortunate but we can’t cry over spilt milk, wipe it up and keep moving.”
The Riders removed a 10-minute one-on-one competitive period from the opening practice of training camp as a result of what happened. The offence and defence stayed apart all day on opposite sides of the field — there were no competitive periods whatsoever. That will be the same plan on day two and for day three head coach Craig Dickenson hopes competitive periods can return.
“I told the guys afterwards we can’t let that affect our training camp, when you start overthinking it, that’s when you have problems,” Fajardo said.
“A lot of guys were in the moment and didn’t realize how awkward and how a-million-to-one that was — four guys going down with the exact same injury, you never see something like that.”