Chris Jones is making sure there are no questions about what he expects in year one of his tenure in Saskatchewan.
“When we walk in that building every day and they’re paying us a paycheque, they pay us to do one thing and that’s win a Grey Cup.”
Jones will be establishing that championship attitude when the players start arriving for training camp in Saskatoon that begins on Sunday.
The new vice president of football operations, general manager and head coach has a lot on his plate to fulfill that standard and starts with a historic renovation of the roster as only 26 of roughly 70 players remain from the 2015 team.
The change over doesn’t have Jones thinking it’s going to be a rebuilding year.
“We’ve been through this before. When we went to Calgary years ago there were a lot of new faces. When we went to Toronto, it was the same thing. Even in 2002 (in Montreal) when we won it with Don (Matthews) there were only five or six returning defensive players … so we’re kind of used to that.”
Of course, Jones’ track record is winning and doing so quickly. He won in his first year on the job in Montreal, Calgary and Toronto in various assistant coaching roles. He took two seasons to make the Eskimos a Grey Cup Champion as a head coach.
While the coach is control of a lot of aspects of success within an organization, the one thing he can’t control is the health of the players.
The Riders know that full well going through a downfall with Darian Durant out with an elbow injury in 2014 and an Achilles injury in 2015.
Jones is happy to report the quarterback looks fit to do damage this season.
“He can make every throw on the field. He looked outstanding at mini-camp. He’s got himself back in great shape so we’re just excited to get this thing rolling.”
When it came to who will back up Durant, Jones hinted more quarterbacks are on the way to compete in camp but wouldn’t commit to the pecking order of players under contract, Brett Smith or B.J. Coleman as #2 or #3. The only for sure is Durant is his starting quarterback.
Chris Jones confirmed a report that offensive tackle Xavier Fulton has returned the Roughriders after trying to get a look in the National Football League.
Fulton has been considered one of the best offensive lineman in the league over the last couple of years but has been banged up of late.
Jones thinks Fulton is back to being in top shape.
“He came in yesterday and looks great. Actually, we found out he ran the same thing that he ran coming out of college.”
Jones also confirmed that former Ottawa REDBLACKS defensive lineman Jonathan Williams has joined the team.
1ST PICK REMAINS UNSIGNED
Chris Jones was full of information during Tuesday’s season preview news conference as he admitted first overall pick Josiah St. John remains unsigned.
Jones says the other draft picks have all signed (with the exception of David Onyemata and Elie Bouka who have NFL deals).
The general manager says the team has certain philosophies and how they’re going to do things and right now that isn’t matching up with St. John’s contract requests.
The team still has five days until St. John would start missing out on on-field work outs.
The Riders also added another Canadian to the depth chart after taking receiver/fullback Kevin Francis in the supplemental draft.
The six-foot-five Francis was the only player being bid on in the auction style draft with the Riders giving up a third round pick in next year’s draft to take Francis.
Francis played college football at North Carolina A&T and was also an accomplished track athlete.