‘We definitely have to be able to practice’: Riders’ GM Jeremy O’Day believes Thursday practice is needed to play in Week 7

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The Saskatchewan Roughriders currently have 10 players in various stages of COVID-19 protocol, which has resulted in practice being cancelled on both Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

If the team does not practice on Thursday, Riders’ general manager and vice president of football operations Jeremy O’Day doesn’t believe the team should play Saturday’s game against the Toronto Argonauts.

“We definitely have to be able to practice,” O’Day told the media on Wednesday. “I think you’ll start getting into a little bit of player safety concern if you send a team out there that hasn’t practiced, so a lot of moving parts, as I’m sure you can appreciate right now, but I guess time will tell here how it goes in the next 24 hours.”

O’Day believes a full practice on Friday instead of the usual walkthrough would only overexert the team before the game. This leaves Thursday as the only option for a full practice.

“I think that there’s a chance that if we don’t have any new cases tomorrow that there may be an opportunity for us to practice,” said O’Day.

“We’re certainly keeping the medical staff and the medical crew that we’re dealing with from the league level up to speed. That’s the idea, hopefully we can get a turn where we don’t have any positive cases. It’s still possible, but with each day that goes by, it could becomes a little more difficult and then, you know, the bigger question is, have we seen the end of it?”

The team’s first case of COVID was discovered on July 12. Two additional cases were confirmed before the team left for Touchdown Atlantic, which included a player and a staff member, but the rest of the team tested negative before heading east. From July 12 to July 20, 13 players and five staff members have tested positive for COVID. Three of these players are no longer in COVID protocol.

No players tested positive for game-day on Saturday against the Argos, including defensive back Rolan Milligan who do not play in Saturday’s game due to illness. He did however have COVID symptoms, so the team decided to isolate him and he did not fly back with the team. He has now tested negative and is expected to return to Saskatchewan.

O’Day said the rest of the positive cases amongst players and staff were confirmed from Sunday to Wednesday and are affecting “just about every position on the team.” O’Day said about 50 per cent of the players are asymptomatic, but the other 50 per cent are symptomatic.

Positive players are required to isolate for five-to-seven days or display a negative test. During this time, players who continue to test negative are not required to isolate.

If the Riders play on Saturday, they have the option of using free agents or practice roster players from other teams to fill any positions they need. O’Day said this is something the team is considering, but hasn’t acted on yet.