After every Roughrider loss, head coach Chris Jones appears in front of the media and says the team has character and they won’t quit.
But what does character get you, really? It hasn’t helped in the win column.
Where it has helped is with overall team morale.
Stepping into the locker room, optimism remains. This is a team that has bonded, that has fun together, that is seemingly trusting in the process, their coach and that the wins will come.
It’s a team that will step behind the reporter’s microphone and ask playful questions of their teammates.
It’s a team that Snapchats those interviews with filters that give each other funny faces. This team isn’t down and out.
It’s a stark contrast from the Riders locker room of 2015 — the team that amassed a 3-15 record — according to the few left that were there.
“It’s a big difference,” linebacker Jeff Knox Jr. said. “Even though we’re losing right now, one and seven, (we) still got high spirits, we’re all good friends, we all want to win … That’s going to count for something soon.”
One of the Riders newest additions, defensive back Fred Bennett, said the attitude of the team was something he noticed when he arrived last week. He did not see a team that was down and out.
“Out on this field I don’t hear guys complaining about it or moping around or quitting,” he said. “Guys just keep coming out here and keep grinding and keeping grinding and we’ll get it turned around.”
Second year receiver Nik Demski said the same thing when asked about the optimism in the room relative to 2015.
“We just know what we’re capable of, the athletes we have in this room, the character we have in this room – we know what we can do … we just have to finish out games and finish out drives offensively,” he said.
“It’s really all about coming together, it’s a new team,” he added.
The Riders may have hit a new low after losing to Hamilton by 46 points, but they have an opportunity to turn things around against four western opponents over the next four weeks. They have two games against the 4-4 Eskimos and two games against the 4-4 Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Wins would put them in striking distance of both.
“These next four weeks are going to be crucial for us, we could either come out victorious … or come out knowing we’re probably going to be going home,” Knox Jr. said.
“Being in this position right now is definitely overwhelming because we didn’t expect it … but I think we can bounce back from it because I think we got a good group of guys here.”
The Roughriders play Edmonton at 8 pm on Friday.