Rider Nation had a moment of concern for star quarterback Cody Fajardo after he suffered a hit to the head from Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence during Saskatchewan’s home opener at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday.
The hit resulted in an unnecessary roughness penalty allowing the Roughriders to gain 15 yards in the second quarter. Fajardo was very slow to get up but managed to stay on the field and not miss any snaps, leading his team to a 30-13 win. Afterwards, he described how the hit affected his game.
“I was dealing with a little bit of an injury. Halftime really helped me get myself together after taking that hit, I believe it was Simoni Lawrence,” said Fajardo post-game. “I was dealing with a little bit of something. I just kind of had to buy some time on the sideline and then halftime to come back and play like myself.”
The 30-year-old was not taken off the field by the Riders’ medical staff or the league’s concussion spotter after the hit from Lawrence and Fajardo believes the appropriate decision was made.
“It wasn’t really my head that was the issue. Yes, he hit me in the head, but just kind of getting folded up was the issue,” explained Fajardo.
“I think the spotter knew, I didn’t initially just grab my head. I think that’s the big thing is when you get hit in your head and you feel it you usually go straight and grab your head or you’re trying to take your helmet off, but I knew my head was good. I just knew that other things weren’t very good.”
The six-foot-two, 223-pound QB was asked to provide his opinion about the type of hit put on him by the six-foot-one, 231-pound Lawrence, who has been known to play on the edge, but he was reluctant to go into detail.
“No comment, I mean that’s just… it’s been like that the entire time I’ve been in this league,” said Fajardo.
This is not the first time since Fajardo joined the Green and White that Lawrence has laid a big hit on a Riders’ quarterback. During the first game of the 2019 season, then-Saskatchewan quarterback Zach Collaros went down after a helmet-to-helmet hit from the perennial all-star defensive player.
It took a while but Collaros recovered from that hit and played late-season games with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after he was traded from the Riders. His absence opened the opportunity for Fajardo to become Saskatchewan’s starting quarterback. Fast forward three years, Fajardo luckily did not have the same fate as Collaros.
Head coach Craig Dickenson was also asked about the hit by Regina Leader-Post reporter Murray McCormick. Dickenson said he did not see the hit and will have to look at it on film. He did not believe it was malicious, however, Dickenson did say Lawrence is a “violent player and he’s looking to punish people.”
As much as the CFL wants to see big plays and action-packed games, player safety needs to remain a priority. Hits to the head serve as a reminder that these professional athletes are putting their bodies in danger every time they step on the football field and fortunately for the Riders, Fajardo avoided serious injury.