Durant physically ready for Roughriders season, needs to catch up mentally

SASKATOON — Darian Durant has declared his surgically repaired right elbow 100 per cent healthy.

Mentally, however, Saskatchewan’s star quarterback has some catching up to do as the Roughriders opened training camp Sunday at Griffiths Stadium with Durant front and centre in the team’s offensive drills.

“I feel good,” Durant told the media after the morning workout. “Nothing has really changed since Florida (in April, where the team conducted a mini-camp). If anything, I feel as if I have gotten stronger.”

If only he felt that way in his mind. Durant admitted he won’t know where he is physically or how his throwing arm will react after he takes a hit in game action. And that won’t happen until at least the first pre-season game scheduled for June 13 in Fort McMurray, Alta., against the Edmonton Eskimos.

“That’s the hurdle I have to get over,” he said. “You won’t be able to get over that until you take a hit and I know that won’t come until the pre-season games. Right now I’m just focusing on my throws… Once you get in the heat of battle you can’t really worry about it. You just have to turn it loose.”

Durant suffered a season-ending injury to his right (throwing) elbow during Week 11 of the 2014 regular season in Winnipeg. The Riders scrambled to find a suitable replacement for their star signal caller and started three different quarterbacks — Tino Sunseri, Seth Doege and Kerry Joseph — in the remaining eight regular-season games.

Post-surgery, Durant practised lightly with the team for a few weeks in October as the Roughriders prepared for their West semifinal tilt with Edmonton. Durant did not play in that game, and it wasn’t until the team’s mini-camp in Bradenton, Fla., in April when Durant worked out of the field with his teammates.

Not having the feel for live game action since September, Durant isn’t sure how much he’ll want to push himself in training camp and in Saskatchewan’s two pre-season games. Starters generally see limited reps in camp, however, with new offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine running things, Durant may need to put in some extra work before he feels comfortable with a new playbook and with his recovery from injury.

“If it’s a play I need to rep or if it’s a throw I need to make over and over then so be it,” he said. “Coach (Corey) Chamblin will do a good job in making sure that the vets get the proper rest. At the end of the day it’s about the regular season and the playoffs. It’s not about camp. Camp gets you ready for that, but you don’t want to run guys into the ground. You want to make sure guys are ready to go in Week 1 and being ready for 18 weeks.”

Saskatchewan is better equipped this season if its starter goes down with an injury. The Roughriders addressed their depth, or lack thereof, at the position in the off-season. Tino Sunseri, who started four games in 2014 was the only other quarterback on the Riders’ roster with CFL experience.

So Saskatchewan plucked the well-travelled Kevin Glenn from the free-agent market. Glenn, 35, began his CFL career with the Riders in 2001 before he moved on to play with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Calgary Stampeders and, most recently, the B.C. Lions. Glenn started 17 games for the Lions a season ago and threw for 3,918 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Durant anticipates he and Glenn developing a strong bond this season. He doesn’t see Glenn as a threat to take his job, but rather as another veteran he can share ideas with.

“I’ve learned so much from Kevin already in the six or seven days we’ve been together,” he said. “Just having that veteran presence and another set of eyes from a guy who has played the position and been in the heat of the battle and has had a lot of success is huge.”

Chapdelaine is excited to work with two experienced quarterbacks and sees a seamless transition with them learning a new offence.

“We’re in a truly co-operative situation where the guys collaborate really, really well,” Chapdelaine said. “I don’t see a need to be concerned about the pecking orders. We understand that Darian is our No. 1 guy. We understand that he needs to get in the work with our starters. Kevin also understands what his role is. There are no egos involved here.”

NOTES – Quarterbacks Brett Smith and Noah Picton also are in camp with the Riders. Smith spent six weeks on the Toronto Argonauts’ practice roster in 2014. Picton, a Regina product, was a rookie standout with the University of Regina Rams last season.

Craig Slater, The Canadian Press

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