‘We knew he was gonna play all along’: Riders’ Craig Dickenson pleased with ‘gutty’ performance from Trevor Harris

Photo courtesy: Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards/Saskatchewan Roughriders

After days of intense speculation regarding his status, an injured hip couldn’t stop Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterback Trevor Harris from putting together one of the best statistical outings of his career in a loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

But while the 28,000 fans in attendance at Mosaic Stadium were stuck on the edge of their seats awaiting a game-time decision on the quarterback, head coach Craig Dickenson already knew the answer.

“It’s good fodder for the fans and the media but we knew he was gonna play all along,” Dickenson admitted at the podium post-game.

“It’s never for sure ’til he’s out there, but he told me all along he felt he was going to be able to play and I believed him. We held him out of practice to get him as much treatment as we could and I think we made the right decision.”

Harris had been hampered by a hip pointer throughout the week, causing him to be listed as questionable for the home opener. After announcing his intention to play on TSN shortly before kickoff, he looked largely unaffected and finished 29-of-41 for 413 yards and three touchdowns while also taking off for 23 yards on three carries.

The outstanding performance still wasn’t good enough to overcome the rival Bombers, who pulled away late in the game for a 45-27 victory.

“I’d trade it, obviously, for the win and that’s because that’s what matters, is wins and losses,” Harris said of his gaudy numbers. “Frustrating that we didn’t get the win here but I felt pretty good physically and didn’t have any bumps and bruises, so we’re full steam ahead. I really like this team and I think the fans in this province are going to like the end result as we go through the year.”

The 37-year-old was injured on the final offensive play of Saskatchewan’s 17-13 win over the Edmonton Elks in Week 1, a questionable play call that saw him take an unnecessary hit while attempting to run out the clock. While both he and Dickenson were confident in his ability to play by the end of the week, the pain was significant in the early going.

“Tuesday night, I would have thought there was probably like a five percent chance I played. I was struggling to get up off the couch,” Harris explained. “I started doing some treatments with my ARP machine. I did two treatments with that and I was significantly better the next day where I felt like if they needed me to, I could have practiced but my body wasn’t quite ready.”

The veteran credits the ARP (Accelerated Recovery Performance) machine and the Riders’ training staff for getting him ready after he was forced to miss Wednesday’s practice. His recovery was so successful that he didn’t feel that the game-time decision tag was even necessary.

“I woke up on day four and I told Dickie, ‘I’m good, man. You don’t need to list me as whatever, I’m gonna play,'” Harris recounted. “And then he texted me today and I was like, ‘I’m playing 100 percent.'”

Dickenson erred on the side of caution despite his faith in his franchise pivot, thickening the fog of war before the rivalry matchup. The Riders’ offence looked crisp and efficient despite the air of uncertainty and Harris left his coach impressed, regardless of the score.

“It was a gutty performance by him. He played well,” Dickenson said. “I thought he made good decisions, saw the field well and didn’t look too hobbled. He was moving pretty well.”

Saskatchewan outgained Winnipeg 437 yard to 403, but fell by 18 points to the three-time defending West Division champions. A stunning 92-yard punt return touchdown from Janarion Grant proved to be the back-breaker, but the Riders settled for field goals twice late in the game, including a 19-yard fourth quarter kick that would have brought the game within a touchdown if the team instead converted a third-down gamble.

Those mistakes loomed large for Harris, who found no satisfaction in the improved offensive numbers from a week ago.

“We lost. There’s no real moral victories. There’s just the building of a house and you don’t want to miss any opportunities to learn and grow,” he insisted.” I think that it’s easy to sweep it under the rug when you win because you just look at the outcome, but we’re looking at the process. Last week wasn’t good enough offensively; our defence straight up won the game for us and tonight, we’ve got to come through for them.”

“We’ve got to be able to, if they put up that many, we’ve got to put up 50. That’s what team football is all about. There’s going to be nights where we need to do that and tonight wasn’t good enough either.”

Harris will have a week to fully heal and work out the remaining kinks before the Roughriders visit the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday, June 24.

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.