13 LATE HITS
Friday morning's news that Roughrider legend Darian Durant had been traded to the Montreal Alouettes was like a splash of cold water to the face.
First came the email at 7:15 am on Friday that Chris Jones was to address the media at 9:00 am at Taylor Field. Frankly at the time I had no idea what Jones was to talk about. Then 15 minutes later I received a text message that read, "Wake up. Durant to Montreal for two picks."
I was wide awake by that point.
2 - I was wrong because as recently as Thursday, I'd written in this space that I didn't expect an abrupt end to the Darian Durant situation with the Roughriders. No matter how it was going to turn out, I expected one side or the other would leak the news to the media days in advance.
However that didn't happen. None of the CFL media insiders had any idea when they awoke Friday morning that the Durant trade with Montreal had been consummated. All of this while Chris Jones was arriving in Regina at midnight on Thursday after travelling all day from Florida. No one said a peep, which is the way it should be.
It was also important to Jones that he deliver the news in person, before a jam-packed news conference at the Rider offices.
3 - It has not sunk in yet that the Darian Durant Era in Saskatchewan is over. Frankly I haven't yet allowed my mind to process the situation and I don't think it'll truly set in until Day 1 of Roughriders Training Camp when Durant isn't out there slinging the ball around like he has for the past 11 years.
As former Rider and current CKRM football analyst Luc Mullinder Tweeted on Friday, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened!"
There hasn't been a bigger Rider news story come down the pike in the social media age as this one and Friday's news of the trade definitely "broke the internet" in Saskatchewan. Heck, the Saskatchewan Roughriders were even trending on Twitter in Calgary on Friday.
Rider fans far and wide were posting selfies of themselves and Darian from his many public appearances over the last number of years. It had to make you damp at the eye.
I was scrambling to find some selfies myself with Durant, but soon realized I don't have any in my collection.
4 - But that's okay because I have something far better. MEMORIES! Darian Durant attempted 3453 passes as a Saskatchewan Roughrider and I called each and every one of them. His exploits on the field are the stuff of legend, but I'll also remember the many road trips where he mosied onto the team airplane and settled into his seat across the row from me with his shades and headphones on. That was his time to escape from the world, if only for an hour or two.
We also did several sports dinners around the province over the years and I saw him blossom from a shy, young man into a franchise icon right in front of my eyes. One night in Estevan in the spring of 2015 we did a Q&A at the Bruins dinner and when he walked off stage, he received a long and raucous standing ovation. Frankly I don't think he'd ever been happier and his smile was a mile wide. He asked me to send him a pic of the moment afterwards.
5 - There was only one other time where I think Durant was happier as a Roughrider and it was immediately after the 2013 Grey Cup. You all saw it. Darian was a mix of elation and agony because even though he was celebrating with his teammates and the millions in the Rider Nation, his family was back home in the USA.
Durant had instructed his family to stay home that Grey Cup Week because he didn't want any distractions. His sole focus that year was delivering a Grey Cup in the biggest game in franchise history and as you all know, the club wouldn't have even got there without his 97-yard rushing effort in a division semifinal win over BC. But delivering for the Riders was more important than his family on that November day at Mosaic Stadium.
He gave every ounce of sweat, blood and tears that he had for this franchise for his 11 seasons.
Now it's over.
6 - But don't cry for Darian. When I spoke to him on Friday, he was in good spirits and said, "These things happen." He was intent on attending Weston Dressler's wedding in Bismarck, ND on Saturday and would deal with the trade in the days which follow.
And he's got a new lease on life. He's going to a team where he's wanted BIG TIME, and it appears he'll get the money he feels he deserves. He'll also get a multi-year contract too, although as of Friday I'm told the contract has not yet been signed.
I'm told not only do the Alouettes want Durant for 2017, but for the immediate years ahead. They feel he's got plenty left in the tank and theirs is a team that's set up to WIN NOW. All they felt was missing was a proven, veteran quarterback.
Darian's going to be just fine, and he leaves here with his head up.
7 - It struck me too that this latest contract squabble should serve notice to any future quarterback of the Roughriders that one thing is abundantly clear: the team always wins.
Whether it was Kent Austin, Henry Burris, Kerry Joseph or now Darian Durant, they've ALL ended up playing elsewhere the next season after being embroiled in heated contract talks.
And the General Managers in these scenarios were Alan Ford, Roy Shivers, Eric Tillman and Chris Jones.
The team always wins. Or at least, it looks that way. I can't recall a situation where the quarterback won but maybe we just didn't hear about it.
8 - As for Chris Jones, he's still comfortable wearing the black hat at this point in time. 3DownNation.com writer Drew Edwards wrote on Friday that this contract dispute all boiled down to Chris Jones' ego but I hope and pray that isn't the case. I really don't think that it is, and the second year HC & GM is simply putting the needs of the organization first. Not his own.
Amidst all the furor that's been blasted at the team through Twitter and Facebook since Friday, one reasonable fan offered this assessment of the situation Saturday night at the sports dinner in Indian Head I spoke at: "Chris Jones' job depends on this move," the gentleman said. "I can't imagine he'd do anything that would jeopardize that."
And Jones and his righthand man John Murphy aren't fazed at all that they don't have an established quarterback at this point in time. "It's January 13," Murphy said flatly on the SportsCage on Friday. I'll be writing about that later this week on the Roughriders' official website.
9 - Let it be said that I think Jeffrey Orridge is doing a wonderful job as Commissioner of the Canadian Football League and am glad he'll be back for Year 3. Remember, I had his back over the concussion debate at the 2016 Grey Cup.
|On stage with Tiger and the Big D|
Dominguez said he's on board with the Durant trade, and that if this is what's best for the franchise, he's all for it.
Meanwhile someone from the crowd asked Dominguez who his best teammate was during his time with the Riders and his answer was "Wes Cates".
The same question was posed to Tiger Williams and his response was Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald.
One patron asked, "Tiger, were you ever afraid to fight?"
He quipped, "Every night when I go to bed with my wife!"
When one of these events is coming to your town, I encourage you to buy tickets because it's win-win. You get to support what's going on in your community, enjoy a good meal and be entertained by some legendary sporting figures. I get to tag along for the ride.
11 - How about those Regina Pats? The Riders and Darian Durant stole their thunder over the weekend but they had some wild, topsy-turvy games over a three-game weekend if you weren't paying attention.
On Friday they jumped to a 4-0 home lead over Tri-City just 10 minutes into the game but unfortunately decided at that time their work was done for the night. They went on to lose 6-5 to the Americans and while fans were howling for the head of Pats goalie Tyler Brown, I maintain the entire team should've been fitted for goat horns.
On Saturday they fell down 4-0 to the visiting Prince Albert Raiders before rallying for a 7-6 home overtime win. Then on Sunday then went to P.A. and routed the Raiders 5-1.
Tyler Brown didn't play in the last two games because of an upper-body injury however he's expected to be back in the crease next Friday night.
The fact remains: the Regina Pats are the best team in the league and should win every night. However apparently they're not good enough to "turn it on when they want to" when they're facing a quality club like Tri-City.
John Paddock has two months to figure it all out, and the team is vastly better after the trade deadline.
It's going to be a fun ride.
12 - One thing that continues to irritate me: Pats fans are starting to talk about booking travel arrangements for the Memorial Cup in Windsor, ON in May. The trouble is, who wants to spend 10 days in Windsor? Or 10 days in Red Deer, or Brandon, or dare I say Regina, or anywhere other than a sunny, tourist locale?
No, the Canadian Hockey League needs to tighten up the Memorial Cup schedule and play two games per day. I've been saying it for the past few years.
The World Juniors are doing it. Even the curling people have it figured out, as evidenced by the soldout Continental Cup of Curling in Las Vegas this weekend. Four days of fun and then it's over, rather than sitting around your expensive hotel room all day waiting for games in the evening.
13 - The clock struck midnight on the Cinderella season of the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday afternoon's Divisional Playoff game at AT&T Stadium, when they fell 34-31 to Green Bay in a wildly entertaining game. What can be said? The Packers outplayed the Cowboys and Aaron Rodgers was as good as he's ever been. The Cowboys' defense let the team down, not rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot, and it left Cowboys alumni like Lance Frazier spitting mad.
"All I have to say is horrible defensive playcalling and even worse execution," the former Rider DB fumed on Twitter. "Our D-Coordinator and D-players were on the same yacht!"
I've got to agree with the pundits. If Tony Romo was at quarterback for Dallas with this result, it would be world-ending. However with rookie Dak Prescott at the helm, the Cowboys are set for the next decade.
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