Roughriders home game against Argos delayed to Sunday due to COVID-19 cases

·3 min read
A football helmet sits on the field before CFL football action with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats playing the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina on Saturday, June 11, 2022. (The Canadian Press - image credit)
A football helmet sits on the field before CFL football action with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats playing the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina on Saturday, June 11, 2022. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Saskatchewan Roughriders will not be taking to the field in Regina as scheduled on Saturday.

Instead, the Riders' home game against the Toronto Argonauts will kick off on Sunday at 5 p.m. CST.

As of Wednesday, 13 players and five staff members had tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the delay.

"To have to move our game is a worst-case scenario for us and something we never want to have to do," said Roughriders president and CEO Craig Reynolds in a statement issued Thursday morning.

"We know that our fans often plan to attend Rider games weeks and months in advance and there can be a lot of travel and logistics involved in that decision. For that, we are truly sorry."

Jeremy O'Day, vice president of football operations and general manager, said on Wednesday the virus had spread throughout the team and was the result of travelling together on planes and buses, and sharing hotel rooms.

There were fears that it would be difficult for the team to play without adequate preparation. The team cancelled practices on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Riders were able to practise Thursday, but starter Cody Fajardo and backup Mason Fine were among 12 players who didn't participate. Fajardo is playing through a left knee injury, but according to Saskatchewan's injury report both he and Fine were also ill.

After practice, Riders head coach Craig Dickenson told reporters Jake Dolegala, the team's No. 3 quarterback and a CFL rookie, will start Sunday.

On Thursday, the CFL suggested the Riders' COVID-19 situation was getting better.

"The postponement was caused by a number of positive COVID-19 tests among Roughriders players and staff earlier this week," the league said. "The situation has improved, and medical officials are now confident the game can go ahead safely on Sunday."

It's unclear if Saskatchewan receiver Duke Williams and Toronto defensive lineman Eli Mencer will play Sunday. Both were suspended for one game by the CFL for their actions last weekend in Nova Scotia.

Before that game, Williams removed Toronto defensive back Shaquille Richardson's helmet and threw it at him. After the contest, Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie accused Williams of twice spitting in Richardson's face — in the pre-game altercation and then later in the game.

Richardson received a maximum fine (half a game cheque) for his role in the incident.

Mencer was banned for derogatory language toward an official during the game. There has been no indication whether either Williams or Mencer would appeal their suspensions.

Saskatchewan will also be without defensive lineman Garrett Marino, who last week began serving a four-game suspension for a low hit on Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

The theme for Sunday's game is Family Day. Associated events originally scheduled for Saturday will now be moved to Sunday.

They include a light party at 2 p.m. CST, appearances from "princesses and superheroes," a junior anthem singer and a Roughrider slime giveaway for the first 5,000 kids who enter Mosaic Stadium.

Ticket holders will not have to take any action. Their tickets will be automatically switched over to Sunday.

"We have had an unfortunate reminder that COVID-19 is still a reality in our lives, but we will put our best foot forward when we play Sunday night," said Reynolds.

This marks the first CFL game that's been rescheduled this season due to COVID-19.

Last year, the Edmonton Elks had an outbreak that led to the postponement of a game against Toronto that was ultimately made up later in the year.

The 2020 CFL season was cancelled because of the global pandemic.

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