Former first-round NFL draft pick Paxton Lynch made his debut at Saskatchewan Roughriders’ training camp on Monday.
Making the adjustment from the four-down game to the three-down game is challenging for most quarterbacks and Lynch is no exception.
“It’s been difficult. A lot of the pre-snap stuff has been a big adjustment for me,” said Lynch in a videoconference. “When you break it all down and get down to the core of it, it’s really football — it’s the same, just different terminology and things like that concept-wise.”
The 27-year-old met digitally with offensive coordinator Jason Maas for over three hours at a time before arriving in Regina, which helped him hit the ground running in his first day of practice.
“He was sitting there meeting with me doing whatever it took to get ready to come out here and practice today, so I’m very thankful that he did that. It’s helped me out a lot,” said Lynch.
The native of San Antonio, Texas was selected No. 26 overall by the Denver Broncos in the 2016 NFL Draft out of the University of Memphis. He was the third quarterback off the board after Jared Goff (No. 1 overall, Los Angeles Rams) and Carson Wentz (No. 2 overall, Philadelphia Eagles).
Lynch spent two seasons in Denver, suiting up in five games and starting four. He completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 792 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions en route to a 1-3 record as a starter.
He had brief stints with the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers after he was cut by Denver but hasn’t taken a meaningful snap since 2017. He considered signing in the XFL in 2020, though the league ceased operations in April.
“The XFL just continued to get pushed back, I never really heard anything,” said Lynch. “I knew they were interested in having me here (in Regina). It was a good opportunity to play football and a good league and a good team, so I jumped on it whenever I realized that I needed to keep playing football and not sit out and continue to wait for any more options. This was the option and this was where I needed to be.”
The Riders put Lynch on their exclusive negotiations list in September 2020 and he signed with the team at the end of June. He missed the first two days of practice while he completed his mandatory quarantine period after crossing the border.
When asked if he was hoping for the opportunity to return to the NFL, Lynch provided a clear answer.
“Absolutely,” said Lynch. “It’s always been my dream. As a kid, you dream of winning the Super Bowl and that fire inside of me to accomplish that is still there and it’s very strong. It hasn’t wavered at all, but I don’t want to get that confused with how I feel about being here because I’m very excited to be here.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about this team, I’ve heard a lot of good things about this community and how much they love this team. I’m excited to get the opportunity to be here and play here and help contribute to this team.”
Cody Fajardo remains firmly entrenched as Saskatchewan’s starting quarterback. The dual-threat passer is coming off a sensational season during which he was named the West Division’s Most Outstanding Player and has become the face of the franchise.
The only other quarterback on the roster with any CFL experience is Isaac Harker, who threw for 467 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie in 2019. James Franklin was supposed to be in training camp with the Riders but retired in April.
Lynch has an opportunity to make an impact with the Riders in 2021 and he appears determined to make that happen.