Jeremy O’Day welcomes the news that the provincial government could ease most of the COVID-related public-health measures by mid-July.
However, the three-phase plan of gradual restrictions is based on how many people in given age cohorts have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. O’Day is still optimistic due to the province’s latest developments .
“We’re starting to see those positive signs,” the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ general manager and vice-president of football operations said during a post-draft Zoom call with reporters Tuesday. “I can’t stop the feeling of us getting back on the field and our fans being able to see our team play again. I just want to get on the field.”
The CFL’s hopes of a season in 2021 hinge on the country getting control of COVID-19. Training camps are tentatively scheduled to open July 10, with the regular season commencing Aug. 5.
For that timeline to be realistic, provincial health bodies must approve the CFL’s return-to-play protocols and a significant number of fans need to be allowed into stadiums.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority has approved the Riders’ return-to play protocol, but plans to reopen Mosaic Stadium haven’t yet to be OK’d.
“It will be a different year to get all of our players up here and to keep them safe playing football and throughout the season,” O’Day said.
Jake Burt became eligible for the draft only a month before it was held. On Tuesday, he was selected first overall by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The former Boston College tight end was born in Regina, but moved to Boston with his family when he was four.
“It would have been a really cool to be selected by the Riders,” Burt said Tuesday. “I’m a professional football player and that’s what I do for a living. Hamilton wants me and I’m going to do everything that I can to make that organization as great as it can be.”
For the second consecutive year, the Riders selected a University of Saskatchewan Huskies product in the first round of the draft.
In 2020, the Riders picked offensive lineman Mattland Riley seventh overall. On Tuesday, Saskatchewan selected defensive back Nelson Lokombo with the second pick.
Josh Hagerty, a Regina product and Huskies defensive back, was selected in the sixth round (47th overall) by the Toronto Argonauts.
Two University of Regina Rams products — linebacker Robbie Lowes and running back Kyle Borsa — were selected by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Lowes was picked in the fourth round (34th overall) and Borsa in the fifth round (39th).
Linebacker Nick Cross, who played for his hometown Rams in 2017 season before spending 2018 with the Okanagan Sun and 2019 with UBC, was selected ninth overall by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Gambling on LaBelle
The Riders selected University of Cincinnati tight end Bruno Labelle in the third round (20th overall) even though he had already signed as a free agent with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
“Anytime you take a guy who has signed in the NFL, it’s always a risk,” O’Day said. “We haven’t shied away from taking risks on guys in the past and we’ve had some success.”
Offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley was the fifth overall pick in 2017 even though he had signed with the New York Jets. Shepley was a starting guard with the Riders in 2019 before signing with the San Francisco 49ers.
In the 2020 draft, Saskatchewan picked defensive tackle Neville Gallimore in the eighth round. Gallimore, a third-round selection by the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, will likely be with them for the foreseeable future.
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