Even though he arrived in Edmonton wearing the Grey Cup ring he won with the Eskimos, Roughriders head coach Chris Jones knows better than to expect an open arm greeting from fans Saturday afternoon.
He did, after all, leave the team with a year left in his contract just days after winning the CFL championship.
“It won’t be the friendliest of welcomes,” he admitted Friday afternoon in Edmonton, adding it’s something he’s used to after 15 years in the league with four different teams.
“It was a great time here,” he said. “The organization was very good to me. Ed Hervey gave me my first shot at being a head coach, for which I am very grateful.”
He and his assistant coaches also took some time out together when their championship rings came last week. Jones said they had a rare night off during camp where they went out and reminisced and had a good time.
But Jones said he’s been thinking more about his new job than looking back on the old one or trying to anticipate what’s coming when he steps back into Commonwealth Stadium.
“It was a good two-year ride here, but it’s like everywhere else I’ve been – I’ve got a job to do. They hired me for a reason and that’s where my focus is.”
Jones told reporters in Edmonton that his new team, filled with dozens of fresh faces and guys who have never played a down of football together, are “still feeling each other out” but he is happy with the way camp went.
“It’s been a good training camp. It’s been very fast, we’re very athletic,” he said.
And while Roughrider fans watched favourites get cut and new players signed to take their place, Jones is no stranger to rebuilds and the challenges that come with them, pointing to the ones he was involved with in both Calgary and Toronto.
“It’s not uncharted territory.”
However, there is one thing he would like to bring to Saskatchewan from his Edmonton days.
“It was a great locker room, we’ve talked about it before. I’ve told our group we probably weren’t the most talent(ed) group, but we were definitely the tightest locker room and we’re trying to emulate the same thing.”
The Roughriders second preseason game kicks off at 2 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium. The game will not be televised, but tune into the Green Zone starting at noon and immediately after the game for all the highlights and analysis.
- Darian Durant will start at quarterback, playing for the first time since popping his Achilles in game one of the 2015 season. The Riders are still trying to decide on their backup, however, so B.J. Coleman, Brett Smith and Phillip Sims will also see time in Saturday’s game.
- Number 1 running back Curtis Steele will also see time in the green and white for the first time since signing with the Riders.
- Noteable absences from the depth chart include Chris Best, Dylan Ainsworth and Jeff Knox Jr., who have all been battling injuries through training camp.
- You can take a full look at the depth chart here.