With the Grey Cup in on home turf this year, the Saskatchewan Roughriders would very much like to headline rather than just host.
So it isn’t surprising they tapped the piggy bank to land some marquee players that might help make that happen.
The CFL’s all-time leader in receiving yards, Geroy Simon, and last year’s most-outstanding Canadian at the Grey Cup, Ricky Foley, head the list.
At 37, Simon seriously increases the average age of Regina’s receiving corps, but general manager Brendan Taman says he’s worth the price it took to get him in a trade with B.C.
“We feel he’s got some game left for sure,” Taman said Tuesday in a CFL preseason conference call.
Sophomore head coach Corey Chamblin hopes the pair of experienced pros can keep the Roughriders on a more even keel than last season.
“The biggest thing you hope those guys bring is their veteran presence,” Chamblin said. “Making sure we don’t get too high with the highs and too low with the lows. I think we did that last year.”
After finishing a mediocre 8-10 last year, the Riders were bounced out of the West semifinal 36-30 by the Calgary Stampeders after losing the lead late in the fourth quarter.
Defensive tackle Keith Shologan is looking forward to teaming up with Foley for 2013.
“He goes and that’s what we need,” said Shologan, himself the top Canadian in the Roughriders’ 2010 Grey Cup loss to the Montreal Alouettes.
“Guys that don’t take plays off and guys that are going to go and make some disruption out there and I think he’s that guy. . . I’m kind of excited about it.”
The Roughriders signed Foley away from Toronto as a free agent.
“To have a winning team you have to have youth and you also have to have that veteran experience and I think that’s what’s going to make us a complete team this year,” said Chamblin.
Another key to Saskatchewan’s success or failure this season will be quarterback Darian Durant, now entering his eighth season with the Roughriders and their starter since 2009.
Chamblin says be believes Durant has the makings of a great CFL quarterback and this year is a good time to prove it.
“I’d like to see him take that next step because I think he has the tools to be a great quarterback and to be remembered in this league. That’s the pressure that I put on him,” Chamblin said.
“Every time I see him I talk about it because he has the ability to be that Steve McNair type, to take a game over with his legs or also with his arm and that’s very unique. I don’t think this league has had it for a while.”
Last season, his passing numbers were among his best so far as he completed 313 of 486 passes for 64.4 per cent, although his yards were only slightly better than a disastrous 2011, when the team finished last in the CFL at 5-13.
Adding Simon to Durant’s pool of receivers should help. Injuries are likely all that stopped Simon from adding a 10th 1,000-yard-plus season to his league-leading record last year.
The Roughriders, meanwhile, have already sold more than 28,000 season tickets and they’ve sold more than 30,000 for the Grey Cup.