Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson knows how much the folks on the prairies love homegrown products such as Jon Ryan.
He knew when the team moved on from Ryan and elected to go with 27-year-old Kaare Vedvik as the team’s punter, especially in a year where the Riders are hosting the Grey Cup, the fans would feel some type of way.
“I’ll tell you straight up, it was not an easy decision and those are decisions that you get scrutinized for, that’s OK, that’s part of the deal,” Dickenson said on 620 CKRM radio in Regina.
“We wouldn’t have let Jon go or decided not to offer him a contract if we didn’t feel like we had really good young players that really deserve an opportunity to play also, so that’s what it came down to.”
The 40-year-old Ryan joined his hometown team in 2019 following a 13-year career in the NFL where he earned over $14 million USD. He punted 169 times for 6,090 net yards (36.0 per punt) over two seasons with the Riders and was named a West Division all-star in 2019.
“Those are the tough decisions you have to make regardless of where a guy is from. Would I love to have Jon Ryan around the team? Yes. Would I love to have him wearing the green and white? Yes,” Dickenson said.
“But the reality is we only dress one punter and we feel like Vedvik’s got a big-time, long future ahead of him and Jon was down to his last year or two. It was a tough decision, he’s one of my favourite guys of all time, and we’ll see how it goes. It’s a decision you have to make and hopefully the team benefits from it.”
Ryan suffered a small fracture in his ankle late in the 2021 regular season, causing him to miss the final four games. The Norwegian-born Vedvik, a second-round pick in the 2021 CFL Global Draft, took over the role and performed well, punting 28 times for a net average of 37.8 yards per punt while he remains under contract for the 2022 season at $54,000.
“The Global initiative as we know is designed to get some players in there that maybe wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity. One of those guys is Kaare Vedvik, we feel like he’s got a ton of ability and he just needs a shot,” Dickenson said.
“We feel like Vedvik’s got a big-time ceiling, he’s going to be a great player in this league. He can kick-off in addition to punt and hold. Is he as polished as Jon? No, but he’s 13 years younger and he’s got less salary, that is a fact.”
Ryan has not ruled out a return to another CFL team in 2022, but there may not be an opportunity available for one of the greatest kickers Canada has ever produced.