Riders’ receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker’s recovery from hip surgery ‘going phenomenal’

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have inked Canadian receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker to a two-year contract extension that will keep him with the team through 2025, but they have yet to see their top target play at full strength.

As first reported by 3DownNation, the 24-year-old recently underwent surgery for a labral tear in his hip and is expected to miss the start of the 2023 season. However, the injury was not a new occurrence.

“It happened going into my first season through training,” Schaffer-Baker told the Regina media on Friday during his first public appearance since the surgery. “That was the COVID year so I couldn’t even get anything done for it at that time. As soon as the same season came around, I was just prepared to work.”

“Being a born athlete, just the competitive nature, all I wanted to do was help the team win. If I did get surgery, that means I would have missed either my first or second year. I just put that in the back of my mind.”

The Mississauga, Ont. native was selected by the Roughriders in the fourth round, 30th overall, in the 2020 CFL Draft and played 12 games his first season. The Guelph product made 45 receptions for 550 yards and two touchdowns, earning the team’s Most Outstanding Rookie nomination in 2021.

Schaffer-Baker blossomed into the Riders’ top receiver last season, catching 68 passes for 960 yards and five scores and earning a nomination for Most Outstanding Canadian. Despite those impressive numbers, the injury deteriorated under the surface and made it difficult for him to practice.

Now on his road to recovery, the budding star provided no timetable for his return but was optimistic about the process.

“It’s feeling real good. Therapy has been going phenomenal. Our new therapist, Greg Mayer, he’s been doing a wonderful job so I’ve gotta give a big shout-out to him,” Schaffer-Baker said. “They’ve been working just as hard as I have been so I’ve gotta give all credit to them.”

The young receiver’s impressive production while playing hurt has attracted significant attention on both sides of the border. He had workouts with nine NFL teams this offseason, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, and Cincinnati Bengals. However, he failed to land a contract before going under the knife.

Schaffer-Baker would also have been highly coveted by CFL teams following the expiry of his rookie contract next offseason but chose to make a commitment to Saskatchewan a year early.

“Originally the thought was just waiting until free agency and seeing where things went from there, but the team came with an offer that was hard to pass up on,” he explained. “My agent had been working very hard to get something done and this is just where I love to be. Playing in front of Saskatchewan and RiderNation, there’s no better place to be.”

“It’s been home for the past two years. They brought me in, they’re the team that selected me so it’s special in my heart. There’s no better feeling than you get playing in front of this home crowd, just being in that stadium and hearing all 33,000 people screaming your name. I just want to continue to build on that legacy and make history with this team, bring many Grey Cups and win games.”

That commitment doesn’t mean he’s closed the door on future NFL opportunities. Schaffer-Baker will still have the option, like all CFL players, to exercise the NFL window in his contract next offseason, with the possibility of a contract increased without a nagging injury holding him back.

“That’s always been the dream and it’s a marathon. It’s seeing things from a long-distance perspective and keeping your vision alive and just knowing that nothing worthwhile happens overnight,” he said.

“Every single day, you gotta lay that brick down and it’s not about just putting one brick down, it’s how perfect you can lay each one down, day by day, and eventually look back and you got a brick wall laid in front of you.”

For now, those bricks will be laid in Saskatchewan with a team desperate to move forward from their disappointing 2022 season. Receiving corps additions Derel Walker and Jake Wieneke will help fill the void in production until Schaffer-Baker can get back on the field, while the steady hand of new franchise quarterback Trevor Harris could help take his game to new levels.

While the pair have yet to meet in person, Schaffer-Baker is finding motivation for rehab in the presence of the veteran signal-caller.

“We’ve been talking a lot through text and he’s saying he’s in his best shape, ready to go this year,” he grinned. “So that’s my encouragement to come in at my best, peak shape, ready to go.”

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.