Nothing can put a football fan’s heart in their throat quite like a starting quarterback scrambling around in preseason action, but don’t expect Cody Fajardo to ratchet back his reckless nature when the Saskatchewan Roughriders take on the B.C. Lions Friday.
The Riders’ dual-threat pivot has a well-established reputation for laying it all out on the field and even in exhibition action, he plans to fight for every extra yard.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to do that,” Fajardo said Thursday when asked if he planned to change his never-say-die play style for the preseason.
“Once the lights are turned on, it’s just football. It’s business as usual. Obviously, the 18-game season is more important than the preseason games, but the competitor side of me wants to win the football game or put our team in a situation to win the game.”
While that may seem like rather short-sighted decision-making in a situation where the results don’t matter, there is logic to Fajardo’s approach. Playing full-speed is as much of a protective measure as any slide or step out of bounds.
“Being smart is definitely something that’s in the back of your mind, but I feel like when guys try and be too safe or too smart, that’s when the injuries occur,” Fajardo explained. “When you get to just play the way you normally play, then your body’s used to that. I think that’s when you play the safest.”
That sentiment was echoed by Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson, who said he won’t ask his starter to limit himself in Vancouver.
“We don’t tell him to dial it back,” Dickenson insisted. “I think sometimes as coaches, we cause more harm than good when we tell him to dial it back. We want to play hard. Be smart — like he always should be — but compete hard and treat this like you would any other game.”
There will be some limitations, however. If Fajardo got his way, the Nevada product would play the entirety of the game. Instead, he’ll likely get the first half to knock off the rust with the rest of the starting unit and will be pulled out when his coach sees what he’s looking for.
“I want to see the offence in rhythm,” Dickenson said. “I want to see Cody and that offence gelling and moving down the field in rhythm.”
However long it lasts, the game action will be extremely valuable to Fajardo as he adjusts to the league’s new narrower hash marks. The angle and distance of throws have been altered slightly as a result and the quarterback is eager to do some experimentation.
“I’m really excited to see it with live bullets,” Fajardo said. “There are some things I’ve been eager to try and do something a little bit different that I wouldn’t do in a normal regular-season game, to see what I can get away with and what I can’t get away with. That’s what I think the preseason games are for.”
Those experiments will be conducted against B.C.’s projected starting defence, a matchup that Fajardo believes will help adequately prepare his unit for the regular season next week. He won’t dare to be caught looking ahead, however.
Football careers are finite and even preseason action is a moment worth savouring.
“You never know when your last football snap is going to be,” Fajardo noted. “I’m always going to go out there and play as hard as I can, no matter if it’s preseason, regular season or playoffs.”