Craig Dickenson: A.J. Hendy was excited to rejoin Riders after leaving team in 2021

Photo courtesy: CFL

The Saskatchewan Roughriders re-signed American defensive back A.J. Hendy, which came as a surprise given that he quit on the team in November due to a play-time dispute.

Head coach Craig Dickenson revealed on the SportsCage how the club’s decision to reunite with Hendy for the upcoming season came about.

“Honestly the season got a little long for him. He played in The Spring League (in May and June), which was eight games also so he gets into game ten (in the CFL) and he’s already at eighteen if you add the eight games he played in The Spring League,” said Dickenson.

“I think it was one of those things where we felt like A.J. deserved a second look. If he wasn’t a talented player we wouldn’t have done it, but he’s got a lot of physical talents, so we felt like let’s give him a fresh start, a clean slate, and see how he does and he was also excited about that opportunity, so it ended up working out.”

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Hendy appeared in eleven games with the Riders this past season, recording 21 total tackles and one interception. He was the club’s opening-day starter at strong-side linebacker, but was eventually replaced by Canadians defensive backs Godfrey Onyeka and Jacob Dearborn.

Saskatchewan elected not to re-sign veteran defensive back Ed Gainey for 2022 and lost Loucheiz Purifoy in free agency to the B.C. Lions. Given their youth in the secondary — the Riders have not signed any free agent defensive backs with previous CFL experience — it made sense to bring back a player who knows Jason Shivers’ defensive system.

“It was spurred by the fact that we lost both our halfbacks this last year,” said Dickenson. “That’s just part of football — you’re going to lose some players — so we felt like let’s bring a guy back that has experience. Out of training camp (in 2021) A.J. was at the top of our list in terms of guys we felt really had good camps, guys we felt could help us.

The 28-year-old signed with the Riders in May 2020 following a four-year stint with the Miami Dolphins (2016), Los Angeles Chargers (2017-18), and Houston Texans (2019). He was also a member of the New York Guardians of the XFL in 2020. He dressed for one career NFL game and did not register a statistic.