‘I like it better here’: Riders’ QB Trevor Harris placing no significance on return to Edmonton in season-opener

Photo courtesy: CFL/Saskatchewan Roughriders

Trevor Harris’ regular-season debut as quarterback of the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be something of a homecoming, as he returns to Edmonton for just the second time since he was unceremoniously traded mid-way through the 2021 season.

The 37-year-old veteran isn’t placing any added significance on the visit to Commonwealth Stadium, however, dismissing any suggestion that playing his former team might provide bulletin board material.

“Shoot, I’ll go back and play but at this point in my career, with how many teams I’ve played for, you almost feel like you could have a personal situation with every team,” Harris insisted to the Regina media this week.

“But I don’t take anything personally. I try never to make assumptions, do my very best always and be impeccable with my word and just try and grind out every day and be the best I can for my teammates. That’s what it’s about.”

The 11-year veteran has spent time with the Toronto Argonauts, Ottawa Redblacks, and Montreal Alouettes throughout his career, but his departure from Edmonton was particularly tumultuous. The organization was plagued by controversy under the leadership of general manager Brock Sunderland and head coach Jaime Elizondo, and Harris proved a convenient scapegoat after a slow start to the season.

When he returned from a mid-season neck injury, the Ohio native was benched following a single start and replaced with a rookie Taylor Cornelius. Days later, Harris was traded to the Alouettes in exchange for defensive end Antonio Simmons.

The six-foot-three, 213-pound signal-caller has faced Edmonton twice since being shipped out of town, splitting the season series in 2022. He posted a 25-18 victory during his first trip back to Commonwealth in Week 17 last year but the Elks cleared out almost their entire front office and coaching staff the previous offseason, with the new faces undercutting any feeling of vindication.

While he may not harbour any resentment towards the Elks organization, Harris isn’t getting sentimental about the city either. Asked if there was a favourite spot from his time in Edmonton that he was looking forward to visiting again, the quarterback was frank.

“No,” he said. “I like it better here.”

Rather than focus on his familiar opponents, Harris has his sights set on improving his latest team. The Roughriders are expected to be a much different group than the 6-12 finishers last season and their new franchise quarterback has been vocally optimistic about the offensive weapons at his disposal, including key free-agent receivers Jake Wieneke and Derel Walker.

With the unveiling of Saskatchewan’s re-branded offence coming Sunday, Harris is far more interested in discussing internal optimism than he is in reopening old wounds.

“I think we’ve got a lot of guys in the locker room that really believe in what we’re doing and believe in who’s in that room, and that’s, to me, a powerful thing,” he explained. “I think a lot of times people talk about schematics and this and that, what’s going on here and there, but to me, it’s a lot about buy-in. It’s a lot about belief. And I think we have total buy-in and a lot of belief.”

“Does that mean we win every single game? No. Does that mean we win every rep? No. But it means that I think we’re going to have a team that’s going in the same direction, regardless of whatever adversity hits us this year.”

If they do win on Sunday, it will be Harris’ second victory at Commonwealth since his departure — two more than the home team has managed in that span. He was on the team’s payroll the last time Edmonton won a home game — October 12, 2019 — though it was backup Logan Kilgore who drew the start with the veteran starter injured.

For now, Harris and the Riders remain point underdogs, with kickoff scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EDT on June 11.