Craig Dickenson praises prairie foe: ‘Winnipeg is the class of the league right now’

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Craig Dickenson was exceptionally complimentary of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers following his team’s 33-9 loss in the Banjo Bowl.

“I think Winnipeg is the class of the league right now. I think they’re better than the rest of us and I think it’s by quite a bit,” Dickenson told the media on Saturday. “Right now, they’re a better football team than we are and by quite a bit. That’s the truth.”

Winnipeg has amassed a league-best 5-1 record and currently sit four points ahead of Saskatchewan (3-2) in the West Division standings. The Blue Bombers also hold the tie-breaker against the Riders by virtue of their recent back-to-back wins, which came in the only two meetings between the rivals this regular season.

“They’re going to be tough to catch,” said Dickenson. “They’re a good team. I don’t see them dropping a whole lot of games.”

The Riders came into the Banjo Bowl on Saturday missing veteran defensive backs Ed Gainey and Loucheiz Purifoy due to injury. Defensive starters A.J. Hendy and Garrett Marino were ejected from the game following a brawl in the second quarter, while Cody Fajardo exited the game early in the second half with a mild concussion.

The injuries obviously played a role in Saskatchewan’s 24-point loss, but Dickenson isn’t sure that his team would have won the game even if they were healthy.

“Would we have beat them straight up? I don’t even know, but I don’t think so. That’s just a good football team and the message to the guys was learn from what we did. We gotta get a little smarter. That was one thing I told our team. Our football IQ has to increase.”

The 2021 CFL regular season was shortened from 18 to 14 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we’ve yet to reach the midway point of the campaign. Though it’ll be tough to catch Winnipeg for first place, Dickenson is confident that his team will improve provided they are able to be more consistent from week to week.

“We’ve gotta get better. I do believe we’ll get better. I think the key right now is who’s going to get better the fastest and who can get healthy and try to get some continuity, especially on offence. We really need some continuity right now and hopefully we can get it.”

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.