One word comes up a lot when asking the Saskatchewan Roughriders offence about Zach Collaros: leadership.
The seven-year CFL veteran was knocked out of the lineup for four weeks after suffering a concussion – then hiding it from the training staff – but since his return the Roughriders have a 3-1 record losing just one game to the Edmonton Eskimos in his first game back.
According to running back Marcus Thigpen, the offence has seen a significant benefit from having Collaros back.
“I feel like we’re a whole different offence. He came in and he took leadership right off the bat,” Thigpen said. “In our offensive meetings he speaks up and he tells us who’s open, who to look for, what to do and that’s what we’re looking for in a quarterback. We need that leader and since he’s been back we’ve definitely been cooking.”
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Collaros has yet to put up a 300-yard passing game and the team does depend on its defence and special teams to put some points on the board, but it’s believed by the team that they’re moving in the right direction.
“It’s going to come,” offensive lineman Thaddeus Coleman vowed a week ago. “Zach just got back, he’s getting his feet wet and as an offence we’re going to throw the ball more but we’re going to run the ball as well,” Coleman said.
“We’re going to score touchdowns. They’re going to come – just got to be a little more patient.”
As for Collaros, he said the more time the offence gets together the more they’ll improve. Collaros only had training camp and a game and a half during the regular season before that concussion removed him from the lineup.
Thankfully, he felt welcomed by the rest of the offence from day one. After practice, Collaros and the receivers are often putting in extra work on the field or talking things through. On his first day back with the team, Rob Bagg and Collaros spent a significant amount of time sitting on the field chatting.
Having those relationships are key to what the Roughriders have been able to do on offence.
“I was the new guy on the team and they embraced me and made me feel like I was part of the team from the moment I met all those guys. With repetitions, with practice, in the meeting rooms and all of those things you feel more comfortable,” Collaros said.
And the comfort is not lost on head coach Chris Jones.
“Certainly they’ve got confidence in Zach,” Jones told the media after the Labour Day Classic. “He’s a great communicator, he’s one of those guys who is easy to like … he’s just kind of a blue-collar type quarterback and it’s easy to follow him.”
“We just communicate real well,” Naaman Roosevelt added. “He brings that veteran leadership where he just sees a lot of things fast and can get the ball out of his hands so when you got a quarterback like that out there, it’s a good thing to play with him.”