It’s back to work for Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver Taj Smith and defensive back Dwight Anderson.
Both are facing charges of aggravated assault but will be in their customary starting positions on Saturday night when the Roughriders welcome the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts to Mosaic Stadium.
“Until we know more, we’re going to play them,” Saskatchewan general manager Brendan Taman told reporters Friday, stressing repeatedly that the Roughriders are still “gathering information” on an incident which occurred last month at a local nightclub. A 20-year-old man was sent to hospital with injuries. “We don’t have all the information we want to go on.”
Charges were laid against Smith and Anderson in provincial court on Thursday. Wide receiver Eron Riley, who is on the nine-game injury list, was charged with aggravated assault on Friday.
All three are scheduled to be back in court Oct. 8.
The Roughriders (8-2) are coming off their worst performance of the season, a 25-13 loss to the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg last Sunday. It remains to be seen how they will be affected by these recent developments.
When asked if he’s been able to keep his players on task under the extenuating circumstances, Saskatchewan head coach Corey Chamblin said: “That’s my job. You have to make sure they keep out all those unwanted things.”
There is sufficient leadership in the dressing room, Chamblin said, and the Roughriders themselves must be responsible when it comes to maintaining focus.
“They’re professional football players,” he said. “That’s what they do.”
Riders’ quarterback Darian Durant addressed the topic of facing and overcoming adversity in general and said he is looking forward to kickoff.
“I can’t wait,” said Durant. “Especially after what happened last week on the field (meaning the loss in Winnipeg).”
When asked if perhaps the off-field incident has brought the players closer, Durant said: “No doubt about it.”
Durant feels that beating the Argos is the only thing that matters at the moment.
“That’s what it’s all about,” said Durant. “It’s all about what happens between the white lines. At the end of the day, it’s all about winning football games, and that’s what we’re focused on.”
Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich said it’s difficult to know precisely how a team will respond during situations like the one in which the Roughriders find themselves.
“It can go one of two ways,” said Milanovich. “It can be a distraction if you let it, but I’ve also seen it galvanize a team.”
Ironically, while all the buzz Friday was about Smith and Anderson remaining in the lineup, there is concern as well in Saskatchewan over several players sidelined with various injuries. Linebacker Rey Williams will be replaced “by committee,” as Chamblin put it.
Right guard Ben Heenan is out and will be replaced by Devin Tyler, and slotback Weston Dressler will be replaced by Kierrie Johnson.
One of the few lighter moments occurred when it was suggested to Chamblin that Dressler might argue his case passionately right up until the deadline for finalizing the roster.
“Hopefully I won’t cave in to him,” said Chamblin.
Dressler, of course, is anxious to play if it comes to that. If it doesn’t, he will take the coach’s decision philosophically as being in the best interests of the team.
“I can see why he would do that, but, obviously, I want to be on the field to help the team.”