‘It really hurts to stand on the sideline’: Riders’ QB Cody Fajardo motivated by benching that ‘wasn’t easy to deal with’

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Cody Fajardo will be the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ starting quarterback against the B.C Lions on Friday night after getting pulled in Week 11.

“He’s going to be our starter,” said head coach Craig Dickenson. “We got great confidence in him and we’re going to do everything we can around him to make sure he has good games moving forward, and we play winning football.”

After last week’s loss to the Leos, Dickenson told the media he wasn’t sure who the starter would be in the rematch against B.C., but the choice to stick with Fajardo over Mason Fine did not take the Riders long to decide.

“I wanted to watch the film and I wanted to talk to the coaches,” explained Dickenson. “We got together as a staff, talked it over and it was a unanimous decision. We feel like Cody gives us our best shot at winning a championship, not that we don’t like the other two. In fact, we feel even better about Jake [Dolegala] and Mason [Fine] but we still feel like Cody is the guy.”

Dickenson is going to give Fajardo the chance to work in Friday’s game and does not want him to play scared, worrying about the ramifications of making a mistake. In last week’s game, the six-foot-two, 223-pound QB was pulled before halftime after completing 8-of-13 pass attempts for 41 yards with two interceptions.

“Confidence isn’t great right now and then you get pulled in a game. I expressed my frustration but obviously, it’s Dickie’s decision to make. I feel like I’ve been playing my best ball in the second half. When you go out there, you don’t play well and you don’t have an opportunity to right your wrongs, it really hurts to stand on the sideline knowing you can’t go out there and make anything feel better,” said Fajardo.

The Roughriders’ starting quarterback is glad Dickenson gave him the “nod of confidence” this week, but admits it was hard standing on the sidelines not being able to correct his mistakes in the second half.

“It was difficult to push through a lot throughout the year, you finally start feeling better and you get pulled. It wasn’t an easy thing for me to deal with, but I’m a team player and whatever coach needs, that’s why he makes the big bucks because he makes those decisions. I’m here for a Grey Cup and to win as many games as possible,” said Fajardo.

The California native said his lingering knee injury “was absolutely not” a factor that affected his play last Friday night. Despite not being on the field for the last two quarters, the veteran did what he could from the sidelines to help Fine.

“I’m happy with the way he played,” said Fajardo. “I’m always gonna back those guys, no matter who’s the quarterback. I’m always gonna be there because winning is most important, but relationships are very important to me as well.”

Since the game, Fajardo has had conversations with offensive coordinator Jason Maas about implementing more things he is comfortable with, which he hopes will instill more belief in himself.

“My confidence is a little bit down right now because you’re not playing well and I got to play a lot better,” said Fajardo.

“Knowing what I can do, a lot of the motivation is going to come from within for me. Over the next couple of weeks, whatever happens, happens, but I’m going to give every play, not take it for granted because you never know — I might get yanked again. Every play I get from here on out, I’m gonna give it everything I have and if I’m gonna go down, I’m gonna go down with everything I got.”

The Riders will be facing a Lions team without star Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke who was injured last Friday. However, Fajardo’s mindset towards B.C. has not changed, noting how the Green and White need to give it everything they have because the Lions are a confident 8-1 team with a strong offence and defence.

“I told him and we’re going to hold true to this: I don’t want him to play scared. If he makes a mistake, I’m going to give him a chance to work through it. It won’t be a quick pull, we hopefully won’t have to pull him or anybody ever again,” said Dickenson.

“I said: ‘You’re going to get a chance to go out there, make mistakes and we’re going to be behind you 100 percent.’ I told him: ‘We’re going to ride with you.'”

Olivia Lawrence is a University of Regina School of Journalism graduate who covers the Saskatchewan Roughriders for 3DownNation.