Premier pass rushers Pete Robertson, A.C. Leonard return to Riders’ lineup ahead of clash with Lions

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defensive line will be at full strength for their chance to hunt Canadian quarterbacking sensation Nathan Rourke on Friday night at Mosaic.

The team’s two starting defensive ends, Pete Robertson and A.C. Leonard, will return to the lineup this week after each missing the past four games due to injury. Robertson was recovering from a foot injury suffered after a late hit from Ottawa Redblacks’ right Tackle Dino Boyd, while Leonard has been battling a shoulder injury.

Despite his long-term absence, Robertson remains tied for the league lead in sacks with seven, adding 11 takes and three forced fumbles over the first five games of the season.

The 29-year-old spent four seasons in the NFL as a member of the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Commanders, and Arizona Cardinals. He signed with the Riders in 2020 and dressed for 11 games last season, recording 10 defensive tackles, two special teams tackles, and five sacks in a depth role.

His counterpart Leonard led the CFL with 11 sacks in 2021, while adding 41 defensive tackles, six tackles for loss, two pass knockdowns, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 11 games.

The six-foot-two, 250-pounder entered the league as a receiver with the B.C. Lions in 2015, after spending 2014 with the Minnesota Vikings. He switched to the defensive line when he came to the Roughriders in 2016. From there, Leonard developed into one of the league’s best defensive ends, playing 83 career games on defence, making 214 tackles, 39 sacks, one interception and five forced fumbles.

In five games this season, Leonards has recorded 14 tackles and three sacks.

The Riders’ will also see controversial defensive tackle Garrett Marino return to the lineup following a four-game suspension for his illegal hit on Ottawa quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and alleged racist language.

Marino is listed as a backup behind Anthony Lanier, who is tied with Robertson and Ottawa’s Lorenzo Mauldin IV for the CFL sack lead. As a result of the re-additions to the lineup, future Hall of Fame defensive end Charleston Hughes will be a healthy scratch.