Cody Fajardo says it’s ‘unfortunate’ Riders haven’t communicated with him since end of season

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Veteran quarterback Cody Fajardo hasn’t heard from the Saskatchewan Roughriders since the end of the 2022 season, which he feels is regrettable given that he is slated to become a free agent in February.

“There’s been no communication between me and the team, which is unfortunate. I would just like a sense of direction, whether they want me back or they don’t want me back, just so my family and I can plan,” Fajardo told The Rod Pedersen Show on Monday.

The 30-year-old threw for 3,360 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions over 15 starts this past season before being benched for the club’s final two games. Head coach Craig Dickenson held Fajardo out of practice in mid-October for what he originally termed a “vet day,” though he later admitted the team was making a change at quarterback in favour of second-year passer Mason Fine.

“The way that it ended, it hurt my feelings. It was a tough way to go out, but it happens,” said Fajardo. “We’re in a ‘win-now’ business and ‘what-have-you-done-for-me-lately’ business, so I get it. It’s just unfortunate that it always has to start with the quarterback, but I get it. I get it now and it was tough. It was a tough way to end the year after giving so much.”

The six-foot-two, 223-pound passer hasn’t ruled out returning to the team but said his hopes of that happening “aren’t really high” given the club’s lack of communication. In the meantime, he has provided his agent with a list of the teams he’d most like to sign with when formal negotiations can get underway in February.

Fajardo recalled a conversation he had with Ricky Ray during which the Hall of Fame passer espoused some wisdom that became especially poignant late this past season.

“He told me, ‘At some point in your career, you’re gonna get benched as a starter but don’t let that define you as a person, don’t let it define you as a quarterback.’ I’ve thought about that heavily these last couple of weeks and months and I know that it’s not going to define me, I’ve got a lot of good football left in me,” said Fajardo.

“I watched every game at the end of the year, and I watched just about every throw, every drop-back, and there’s a lot of things I could have done better and I’m gonna learn a lot from last year. I hope that this tough time will help me become a much better quarterback and that’s the goal when you go through trials and tribulations like that.”

Fajardo suffered a grade-two MCL tear early this past season, which he felt limited his ability to change direction and make plays with his legs. He ran for 1,079 yards over his first two seasons with the Riders, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Those numbers dropped significantly this year as he rushed 81 times for 357 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

In hindsight, Fajardo wishes that he had given his knee more time to heal after the injury initially took place. He missed only one game during the season, which took place in late July after he contracted COVID-19.

“Putting a clunky knee brace on a mobile quarterback is not ideal. It wasn’t ideal for me but I wanted to be out there with my guys and I knew I’ve been able to play through that injury before. It’s unfortunate, I didn’t have my best year and there’s no excuses for that,” said Fajardo.

“I just wish I would have taken some time off, maybe a game or two, and then just get back to 100 percent and go out there feeling like myself again. The COVID game didn’t help me at all, either. My knee, it helped a little bit but … I lost a lot of weight that I was carrying that can help protect me taking hits.”

The Riders fired offensive coordinator Jason Maas following the season and have yet to name his replacement. In the meantime, Fajardo appreciates the opportunity to begin his off-season workout regiment early as he prepares for what he hopes will be a bounce-back season in 2023.

“It’s been truly incredible just kind of focusing on me, my family and the little one and trying to be the best dad I can be, trying to be the best husband I can be. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now going forward but all I can do is try and be the best person and best version of myself and that’s been my goal,” he said.

“I guess one silver lining of not being in the playoffs is I got a jumpstart on my off-season workouts — I’m starting a month earlier. Usually I don’t start ’til about early January.”