There just seemed to be a bit of a jump in the step of the Roughrider squad Wednesday.
Sure, part of it could be attributed to them having nearly two weeks off football, but they also had a familiar face back in their ranks.
Rob Bagg returned to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and his teammates seemed thrilled by the move.
But perhaps no one was quite as thrilled as Brendon LaBatte.
“It was great to see him this morning, really great. Put a big smile on my face,” beamed LaBatte after practice.
“I just gave him a big hug and said ‘good to see you man, glad to have you back.’ He’s one of the best guys I’ve had the fortune of playing football over the last 11 year with. I think he’s grade ‘A’ he’s as good as they come.”
Bagg said the last nine weeks have been “pretty crazy” but the last couple of days moved really fast for him.
“I had a really good conversation with Coach Jones at the end of the last week and then again on Monday,” Bagg explained. “From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday night I talked to Coach Jones and then had a flight booked out here and arrived last night around 1 a.m. … was here at the stadium at 7 (a.m.) and on the field now so it moved pretty quickly, but just excited about the rest of the season here and getting back with these guys and playing football again in the the city that I love.”
Bagg was released alongside with two other veteran receivers – Chad Owens and Bakari Grant – at the close of training camp. He was battling an ankle injury and Head Coach Chris Jones said the rules around the injured list made it difficult to hold on to the vet.
“The new rule, the CFL rule clearly implicated us early in the year,” Jones said when explaining the reason he let Bagg go. “Early in the year, they said that the six-game was not to put guys with three to four week injuries (on), it was for six-game type injuries and when the trainers said it wasn’t necessarily a six-week deal I couldn’t risk a $25,000 fine, so ultimately that’s what it came down to – you have to release a guy that’s work for you and you feel loyal to. That’s tough.”
That’s a wider explanation than Jones gave at the time of Bagg’s release when he said the 33-year-old was outworked at training camp.
“We brought in a couple of guys that really had good camps, so that was kind of the direction we decided to go, ” Jones said, adding “it’s a young man’s game.”
Bagg, on the other hand, declined to really elaborate on what happened when he was released but stressed his ankle feels great now and he worked really hard to get it back healthy.
In the meantime, he did have some offers from other teams. Some he said he couldn’t take because of his injury while others he didn’t feel were the right fit.
“I definitely knew I wanted to play football and I was trying to be patient and play the waiting game. This was definitely not the plan but its funny how it worked out and I’m certainly happy to be here,” Bagg said.
Praised for his leadership abilities by his teammates and head coach, Bagg said he’s ready to lead by example and hopes that it can inspire those around him.
“I’m just another piece of the puzzle and if I can go out there … and work as hard as I possibly can hopefully that encourages them to do the same then I think we’re all a little bit better off and a little bit closer to our goal which is being a quality football team,” Bagg said.
Bagg has played his entire career with the Riders. He won a Grey Cup with the team in 2013.
During his 11-year career, Bagg has 364 catches for 4,705 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Trent Richardson released
Along with announcing Bagg is returning to the team, the Riders announced a few other roster cuts, including running back Trent Richardson.
Richardson joined the team last season. He rushed for 259 yards and two touchdowns during his four games with the team. He had not suited up for the Riders in 2018.
Quarterback Devin Gardner, defensive back Shawun Lurry, and defensive lineman Tresor Mafuta were also released.
Defensive back Will Blackmon was added to the practice roster.