The Saskatchewan Roughriders don’t plan to have any unvaccinated players under contract in 2022, according to general manager Jeremy O’Day.
“It’s going to be awful difficult to have somebody that’s unvaccinated with the new regulations with travel. They won’t be able to fly, so I think it’s fair to say that moving forward we wouldn’t be able to have anyone that’s unvaccinated on our team,” O’Day told the media on Tuesday.
“We certainly wouldn’t go into a year where we would only count on a player playing at home. I think you can understand that we just wouldn’t be able to do that as an organization. It’s really not our choice if they can’t fly, then they can’t help our team win. That’s just the reality of it.”
Saskatchewan’s stance is in line with that of Calgary Stampeders’ president and general manager John Hufnagel, who told the media he won’t sign players who can only play home games.
O’Day indicated that vaccination status has become a standard part of scouting and players have grown used to being asked whether or not they are vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Riders demoted former first-round NFL draft pick Paxton Lynch to the practice roster in November. It was later revealed that the quarterback was unvaccinated and therefore would have been unable to travel with the team for the postseason. Lynch returned home to the United States shortly thereafter, though he remains under contract for 2022.
The club previously indicated that they had only one unvaccinated player, which means the rest of their roster should be eligible for air travel come next season.
Saskatchewan fell short of the Grey Cup in 2021, but O’Day remains proud of his team and the way in which they were able to face adversity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On the field I think we were pretty successful. We put ourselves in a good position going into the playoffs and getting a home playoff game. It was nice for us to get our first home playoff win in our stadium, which was a big deal for us,” he said.
“I’m really proud of all the guys. We had a lot of adversity we faced during the season and our guys just kept battling and stuck together. It was nice to see the guys continue to work together and we ultimately came up a little but short in the playoffs.”
Saskatchewan has gone 22-10 in the regular season since O’Day became the club’s permanent general manager in January 2019.