Rhythm over rest: Cody Fajardo wants to keep playing whether Riders clinch home playoff game or not

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

The rest versus rust debate is one that is as old as the sport of football itself.

Some say the players should get well-earned time off after a grind of a regular season, while others don’t want to mess with a good thing.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders could face this decision if the upcoming weekend goes their way.

Either a win over Edmonton or a Calgary loss to B.C. would clinch second place for the Riders, making the last game of the season meaningless from a standings perspective. They aren’t catching Winnipeg and Calgary wouldn’t be able to catch them. Head coach Craig Dickenson has his preference.

“The nice thing is you can rest some guys that have got some injuries and some guys who are playing through some pain, some bumps and bruises,” Dickenson said. 

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but the other thing about doing that is it gives you a chance to play some young players who you think maybe have really bright futures and you really want to see them play. It’s a win-win for coaches when you can play some new guys and rest some of your vets.”

However, his quarterback, Cody Fajardo, feels differently.

“To tell you the truth for me, you guys should know me well enough now, if my brothers are out there and all of our starters are out there I feel like I should be out there with them. And that’s just how I am,” Fajardo said.

“Also, we’re playing a 14-game season and my body is used to an 18-game season, so it’s a little bit different. A lot of people don’t think about that, it is already a shortened season. For me it’s one of those things where if you happen to be healthy all year, you play that last game and if something were to happen and you get injured, that’s just bad luck.”

It is not an exact apples-to-apples comparison, but Saskatchewan did face the rest versus rust issue in 2019 when they finished first in the West Division in the regular season, giving them a bye. They ended up falling short in their next game sending them home to watch the Grey Cup instead of playing in it. That is a lesson that Fajardo thinks the team could learn from.

Thinking about 2019, a bye week isn’t always the best thing for a team because you get out of that football rhythm, you get out of that contact, you get right back into the game and sometimes it takes a little bit to get back into that feel of the game,” Fajardo explained.

“I’m a big rhythm guy, I’ve already missed a full year of football so the less games I miss the better. That’s why you guys see me out there almost every week fighting it out because I love football and I only have so many games left, that’s why I want to be out there with my guys.”

To Fajardo’s point about taking time to get into the feel of the game, Saskatchewan fell behind Winnipeg 10-1 in the first quarter of that West Final and never recovered, losing 20-13 to the eventual Grey Cup champs. On the flip side, Fajardo did throw for 366 yards in that game, a total he hasn’t come close to this season.

While ‘to play or not to play’ could end up being the question after this week, the idea of wrapping up another home playoff date in Riderville is special for Fajardo on a couple of fronts.

“Being the QB of this team, to lead us to two home-field playoff games is something I’m going to hang my hat on and I’m doing everything I can because there is a little added motivation because I know if we do host a home playoff game that I get to see my wife. She’ll be flying up for the game so there is a little non-football stuff that is motivating me.”

With so much at stake this weekend, Friday could be a long, sleepless night for Fajardo and the Riders as they watch the Lions play the Stamps.

“I’m an old man and those B.C. Lion games are so late I’ll probably be long gone in bed before it even gets to kick-off, so I’ll have to wake up, usually I’ll wake up in the morning and check the score and see,” Fajardo said.

“But I don’t think I’ll be glued to my TV because we have a game the next day and I think it’s selfish for me to stay up and not be able to get the rest that I want for a big game for us as well because we control our own destiny.”

Saskatchewan (8-4) is back in Regina to play Edmonton (2-9) Saturday afternoon at Mosaic Stadium.