Dickenson: Brendon LaBatte ‘might be interested in coming back’ if restrictions loosen on Aug. 15

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach Craig Dickenson indicated that perennial all-star offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte might be interested in returning to the team if restrictions are loosened for CFL players on August 15.

“The restrictions have loosened a little bit,” said Dickenson in a videoconference. “After August 15 if it loosens more, he might be interested in coming back, but I’ll tell you what — when you miss (training) camp, it’s tough.

“I think a guy like [LaBatte] could probably do it because he is such a veteran player and he’s so smart and he knows what to do with his body. If he’s interested in coming back, we’re interested in having him. We’ll definitely cross that bridge if that’s something he wants to do.”

LaBatte told the media at the end of June that he’d decided to sit out the 2021 season due to concerns regarding COVID-19 protocols, a desire to maximize time with his family, and reductions to player pay.

Dickenson has not personally kept in touch with LaBatte, though he knows a number of members of the organization have, including offensive line coach Stephen Sorrells. The future Canadian Football Hall of Fame blocker is well-entrenched in Saskatchewan’s organization, having been a member of the club since 2012.

“The benefit is that he’s healthy and he probably hasn’t been this healthy in a long time,” said the second-year head coach. “The negative is it takes a while to get into football shape, including upfront on the O-line. We’ll see. [LaBatte]’s been lifting and working out and planning on coming back, he’ll be ready — I know that. If he isn’t ready, then that probably means that he’s mentally not planning on coming back.”

Unlike the NFL, the CFL does not currently distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated players when it comes to health and safety protocols. This may change over the coming days or weeks as the league continues to work with health authorities.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.