Fans of the Saskatchewan Roughriders may want to temper their expectations for slotback Weston Dressler ahead of Sunday’s game versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Signed to a one-year deal by Saskatchewan on Thursday, Dressler is no guarantee to suit up against Winnipeg, although a lot of eyebrows would be raised if he doesn’t. Before he does return to the field, however, Dressler faces a learning curve before he’s completely comfortable in his new surroundings.
“We’ll see. I have a lot of work to do if I want to play on Sunday,” said Dressler, who was among the first wave of cuts by the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs earlier this week. “We’ll see how [Friday and Saturday] go with practice and how comfortable I can get. If I’m not comfortable, if I’m not going to be able to help the team at all, or if I’m going to hurt the team in any way, then I’m not going to do that.”
Head coach Corey Chamblin wasn’t about to rush the four-time West Division all-star into the starting lineup.
“A lot of people are going to be expecting him to be the same person he was before he left and I think it’s going to take a bit of time,” Chamblin said. “He has to get adjusted to his teammates, he has to get adjusted to the field. There’s an adjustment period. Hopefully it’s shorter than I think it will be.”
Asked if Dressler can learn the revamped Riders playbook in time for Sunday’s game, Chamblin wasn’t sure it could be done.
“It’s reaching,” he said. “In the off-season, we did some things to update [the playbook]. The thing you worry about most, not just the playbook, is what kind of CFL shape he’s in. In practice [Thursday], you could see he’s a bit winded. I’m not sure if he’s ready to play at this point.”
The 5-foot-7, 180-pound Dressler has spent his entire six-year CFL career with the Riders, giving him some familiarity with Saskatchewan’s playbook. He has eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark in five of those six seasons. His 442 receptions and 6,536 yards ranks third in franchise history.
Dressler and receivers Chris Getzlaf and Taj Smith each surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in the 2013 season. Responsible for those feats was quarterback Darian Durant, who will likely start on Sunday despite an injury to his right (throwing) hand suffered in last week’s win over the B.C. Lions.
Durant conceded he and Dressler had some initial growing pains during Thursday’s workout as far as finding their chemistry.
“He’s used to things happening a lot faster on a smaller field down in the NFL,” Durant said. “I just told him to be a little more patient with some of his routes and different things like that because the field is much wider and he has a little more time.
“As far as the playbook in concerned, he’s picking it back up where he left off and now it’s about the timing.”
Dressler said his first day at practice wasn’t a smooth transition.
“It was tough. It was different,” he said of Thursday’s workout. “It’s going to take a little time to get used to the game again and get used to the playbook. Every time I try to learn a new playbook, I basically try to erase my memory from previous things I’ve learned as far as terminology goes. So now I’m trying to erase my memory again and retrain it.”
The Riders (6-2) have won five straight games and sit tied with the Bombers (6-3) for third place in the West Division standings. Though much of the Riders’ recent success can be attributed to the stellar play of their defence, which has allowed just two offensive touchdowns in its past three games.
Saskatchewan’s lone touchdown in its 20-16 victory over B.C. last week was scored by reserve offensive lineman Dan Clark on a goal-line play-action passing play.
While Durant is confident Dressler will add a big-play potential to the Riders’ aerial attack, Chamblin cautioned the offence will not become one-dimensional.
“There’s a slight adjustment, a slight bump. One man can’t make it or break it,” Chamblin said. “[Defensive end] John Chick can’t do it by himself. He has to have good teammates around him and I think we have a pretty good football team, I think the offence is pretty good and [Dressler] will just add to the experience aspect for us.”