Rider Insider

Well, here we are!

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have reached the final week of the 2014 regular season and they'll conclude the 18-game schedule this Saturday when they host the Edmonton Eskimos (6:00 pm, TSN, CKRM Rider Radio Network).

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Then it's playoff time.

But what happens between now and semifinal weekend for the Roughriders has everybody guessing. I suspect even some of the Roughrider players are wondering too, along with the rest of the Canadian Football League.

It's been eight weeks since star Rider quarterback Darian Durant tore a tendon in his right elbow on September 7 in Winnipeg. That cued an alarming tailspin which has seen Canada's Team lose their past five straight games and six of seven since Durant went down.

Now the Rider Nation is abuzz since Durant is due to come back but one has to wonder if he'll be back for this Saturday's game (since he's practiced only sporadically the past couple of weeks and not even thrown a pass in open workouts), or for the playoffs, or will he be shut down all together?

The Riders' transaction on October 23 of placing Durant back on the six-game injured list certainly got tongues wagging but it was more of a clerical move than anything else.

"I think people probably read too much into that," observed Riders Assistant GM Jeremy O'Day on 620 CKRM. "It appears that when something like that happens, it means automatically that he's not available for any more games but that's actually not the truth. We can pull any of the guys off the six-game injured list. That's just a worst case scenario. If he doesn't recover the way we expect, then he stays on the six-game and it would impact the salary cap.

"By no means with us doing that does it mean Darian won't play again this year."

Cool. But that still gives us no indication when, or if, Durant will be back this season as the club looks to repeat as Grey Cup champions for the first time in franchise history. When the team begins its practice week, perhaps we'll get a better idea but it remains a closely-guarded secret.

Text inquiries to Rider players and staff regarding Durant's status have gone unanswered. If they know, no one's saying.

And now the Rider brass has a mammoth decision ahead of them. Is Durant at 75% better than his temporary replacement Kerry Joseph at 100%? Who gives them the best chance to win?

What's in Darian's best interests? A lot of Rider observers, mostly alumni I've spoken with, would like to see Durant shutdown for 2014. It's pretty clear what he means to this franchise since his injury seems to have killed the whole unit. If he comes back early, and reinjures his throwing arm, what does that mean for the years ahead? That's his moneymaker and we've now seen how hard it is to find a star quarterback in this league.

Furthermore if they left the decision up to Durant, he'll want to play. It was painful to see him trotted out late in the 2011 season, with nothing to play for, while he suffered through a barrage of injuries as the team looked for meaningless wins near the end of a 5-13 campaign. He's always going to want to play. That's just the way Darian Durant is built. As a matter of fact he feels guilty being on the sidelines now.

So unfortunately this column has provided many more questions than it has answers but we'll being finding out the solutions over the next couple of weeks.

Will the Green & White be in their fifth Grey Cup in eight seasons on November 30 in Vancouver or is this season going to fizzle out with a whimper?

Only the football gods know for sure.

© Copyright Carlyle Observer

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