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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

GREG JONES READY FOR FAMILIAR FOE

REGINA - Roughriders linebacker Jeff Knox Jr. says new defensive partner Greg Jones is a beast. That's something the Toronto Argonauts have known for a long time.

Knox will line up beside Jones in Saskatchewan's season opener Thursday opposite quarterback Ricky Ray and the Argonauts (0-1). The Riders are coming off a Week 1 bye.

Jones led the Argonauts with 98 defensive tackles and 17 special teams tackles last year, earning him the nomination for the team's most outstanding defensive player.

"He's solid in there,'' Knox said of Jones. "He can make sure everybody's where they're at; he's a Mike (Middle Linebacker). He's acting like one of our leaders on the defence.''

Jones, who signed with Saskatchewan as a free agent in the off-season, said he expects his former team to correct some of its offensive mistakes that led to a 42-20 home loss against Hamilton.

"They might try to use my aggressiveness against me. But honestly, it's not about me,'' he said. "I've got 11 other guys who can play ball as well.''

Knox enjoyed a similarly stellar 2015. He set the Riders' franchise record for regular season defensive tackles with 114, and he picked up top defensive player, top rookie and outstanding player nominations for his team.

That's where the highs of 2015 ended for Knox and the hapless Roughriders. They finished in the CFL cellar with a 3-15 record and a coaching staff that had seemingly lost control of the team.

Jones is one of the many new faces to join this 2016 Roughriders squad. Knox, the offensive line, a few Canadians and veteran quarterback Darian Durant are all that's left of the 2015 team.

Durant was hobbled for the entire season after rupturing his left Achilles tendon in the first half of the team's 2015 opener. He'd spent the latter half of 2014 sidelined after tearing a tendon in his right elbow, his throwing arm.

The ten-year vet will start Thursday's game against the Argos' Rich Stubler-led defence. The recovery process to getting back under centre has been a grind, he said.

"When you hear about an Achilles injury, you always think the worst. But the way technology has progressed, it makes it easier to come back from,'' he said.

"Once that doubt passed, it was all about making sure my leg and my body were in the best shape possible to help this team.''

There was a mental recovery, too.

"I think that when it's taken away from you, all you have is time to think. Think about the what-ifs, think about what makes you happy, what do you enjoy most,'' he said. "Being away makes you value the little things that come with it.''

That makes stepping onto the field Thursday all the more meaningful.

"It's been a while, and to be able to open up in front of our home fans, it makes it that much more special,'' he said. "I'm excited.''

Along with the new faces on the field, the Riders' sideline will be manned by an entirely new coaching staff, headed by coach, general manager and vice president of football operations Chris Jones, who's coming off a Grey Cup championship with Edmonton.

Nine of those ten coaches, including Jones, were part of the Eskimos' Grey Cup championship last year.

"We expect to win football games. (It) doesn't matter where we are or what we do. And if we don't, we're extremely disappointed; that standard hasn't changed,'' Jones said of the new squad he's assembled.

Through his 14-year CFL coaching career, Jones has four Grey Cup wins with four different teams.

He emphasized his penchant for constant roster tinkering.

"We're always going to be looking for the next people that we feel like we need to win football games,'' he said. "That's it. I mean, we're never going to be resting on our laurels.''

The team will play its last season at Mosaic Stadium, formerly Taylor Field, before moving into a new stadium next year..

In 2017, the team moves west to the new Mosaic Stadium, seven blocks over.

(Canadian Press)

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