REGINA — With Saskatchewan trading veteran quarterback Zach Collaros to the Toronto Argonauts on Wednesday, the usual football parlance would now call the Roughriders Cody Fajardo’s team.
General manager Jeremy O’Day and head coach Craig Dickenson, however, prefer a more collective concept.
“This is no one player’s team. This is not my team, it’s not Jeremy O’Day’s team. The whole idea of team is a group of men coming together with a common purpose,” Dickenson said Wednesday.
“Is Cody a leader on this team? That has yet to be determined but this will never be one person’s team for as long as I’m the coach. That defeats the purpose of team. He might be the leader on offence, we’ll let the players figure that out. This is a collective group of men and they feel like playing hard for each other and that’s the whole idea.
“Yes, he is the starting quarterback. He’s got one of 24 starting positions.”
The 27-year-old Fajardo was thrust into the starter’s role when Collaros suffered a concussion early in the June 13 season opener against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, a 23-13 loss. Since then, Fajardo has gone 3-2 as the starter, completing 107 of 146 passes for 1,392 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also thrown four interceptions.
Fajardo found out about the Collaros trade during a meeting prior to Wednesday’s walkthrough for Thursday’s home game against the Ticats. He described his promotion to undisputed starter as bittersweet and said Collaros served as a valuable mentor over the past six weeks.
While Fajardo is looking forward to the challenge of being the full-time starting quarterback, he isn’t about to make any big adjustments.
“For me, nothing’s going to change,” Fajardo said. “I don’t think I’m going to be any more vocal than I’ve been. I don’t think I’m going to try and do anything more than I’ve already done. I’ve been able to start pretty much the whole year and taking those experiences and moving forward, it’s professional football. At any given time they can bring in another guy if I’m not performing well. I just want to continue to go out and prove to this team that I can win football games.”
Fajardo also isn’t about to let the expectations of the job affect his play.
“There’s more added pressure, because people are going to look at you as the franchise guy now,” said Fajardo. “Like I’ve always stated, any time you play the quarterback position you can’t put any more pressure than what is already on the position … We can’t let this distract us from a pretty good team coming in to play us tomorrow night.
“I just try to take a page out of (former CFL star) Ricky Ray’s book — stay even keeled, no matter what is going on around you.”
Fajardo is in his first season with the Riders after stops with the Argos and B.C. Lions. While he was a backup quarterback with those teams, O’Day felt confident that Fajardo could one day become a starter in the CFL.
“Not to give away my secrets or anything like that but I’m a firm believer that past performance dictates your performance down the road,” O’Day said. “I believe that in order to be a very good or great player, you’ve had to have shown that you’ve got the ability to do it, whether it’s in college or the pros. Cody played at a very high level in college and every time he was given an opportunity at our level, he did well.”
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (5-1) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (3-3)
Thursday, Mosaic Stadium
SPEEDY’S ON THE SIDELINES: The Tiger-Cats placed wide receiver Brandon Banks on the one-game injured list on Wednesday. In six games this season Banks has 42 receptions for 554 yards and three touchdowns. He also has returned two missed field goals for touchdowns.
GOING FORWARD WITHOUT MASOLI: Dane Evans will make his first start this season at quarterback for the Ticats, replacing Jeremiah Masoli who tore his left ACL in Friday’s 23-15 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Evans was 13-of-25 for 94 yards in relief of Masoli.
LAUTHER STILL OUT: Riders kicker Brett Lauther will sit out his fourth straight game with a groin injury. Rookie Gabe Ferraro will continue to fill in for Lauther. Ferraro is three-of-five on field goals with a longest of 48 yards.