Riders giving veteran Canadian OL Brendon LaBatte ‘respect’ and time to decide on playing in 2022

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are giving Canadian offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte space to decide whether he wants to play football in 2022.

The six-time CFL all-star has helped anchor the Riders o-line from 2012 to 2019, but deemed the CFL’s coronavirus protocols too restrictive to participate last season. General manager Jermey O’Day has been in contact with LaBatte since the turn of the calendar to a new year.

“Just some conversations, I have talked to him a couple times on the phone. It’s still an ongoing thing, I think we’ll give Brendon that respect of taking some time through this process to see exactly what he plans to do,” O’Day said.

“We have had conversations, we agreed to take a little bit of time and think about it and I’m sure we’ll know more in the near future.”

Not having LaBatte up front in 2021 was a massive blow to the team’s protection, which proved to be a weak point all season as the unit allowed the second most amount of sacks (40) in the league. Fans and media have kept his absence at the forefront of the conversation in Riderville and O’Day doesn’t expect that to change until a final decision is made by the Weyburn, SK native.

The 35-year-old LaBatte has been with Saskatchewan since 2012 when he signed with the team as a free agent. He is a nine-time West Division all-star who was named the league’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 2013.

The six-foot-four, 320-pound o-lineman fought through injuries in 2019, starting six games. When healthy, he is regarded as one of the best interior blockers in the CFL and has played in 181 career games over 12 CFL seasons, including 112 as a Rider.

LaBatte helped the Riders win the 101st Grey Cup on home soil in 2013, the fourth championship in team history. Saskatchewan was supposed to host the Grey Cup in 2020, though the date at Mosaic Stadium was pushed to 2022 following the cancellation of that season due to COVID.

If LaBatte does suit up for the green and white this year, he’s currently scheduled to earn $180,000.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.