CFL teams are used to two exhibition games prior to the start of each season, but since the season’s start date was pushed back to August due to the coronavirus pandemic, this weekend’s scrimmage is extra important.
Two players who have yet to solidify their spot on the opening day roster are backup quarterback Mason Fine, who signed with the club in December 2020, and running back Jamal Morrow, who first signed with the Roughriders in 2019.
Fine is pushing for one of two backup spots behind starter Cody Fajardo. He is competing against Paxton Lynch, a former first-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2016 National Football League draft, and Tom Flacco and Isaac Harker, who backed up Fajardo in 2019.
He is hoping to show the coaches that he has what it takes to play in the CFL.
“The first couple of days might have had ups and downs like a rookie would, but each day I’m out there getting reps, taking plays, learning the playbook and kind of mastering that, getting it down, having good footwork, making good decisions and hitting my throws,” Fine said.
“That’s what I really want to show the coaches and that I can do that on a consistent basis.”
Fine is coming off four strong years at North Texas in Denton where in 49 games, he threw for 12,505 yards and 93 touchdowns. He also rushed for seven more touchdowns.
He said he still getting used to not being the go-to guy, but is trying to make the most of his opportunities.
“That’s a learning curve coming from college where you’re getting 90 per cent of the reps and in practice (here) when you’re running 84 plays, you may only get eight reps so you’ve got to make those eight reps count,” Fine said.
“And you have to make sure you prepare the right way. … It’s about making sure you know the play to begin with, know your reads, know what the defensc is going to do and then make a decision.”
Craig Dickenson, Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach, says the team is leaning toward Harker due to his experience at this point, but that could change depending on what they see on Saturday,
“I think it’s still Isaac, but honestly, I’m going to let coach (Jason) Moss tell me what he thinks on that. I mean, he knows quarterbacks,” Dickenson said.
“He feels good about all five in the room … and we’re hoping that some of those quarterbacks separate (themselves).”
Morrow first signed with the team in April 2019 and spent that season on the practice roster. He is now competing with back up starter William Powell to be the team’s primary kick returner.
Saturday’s scrimmage is something he’s looking forward to.
“I have had a lot of reps … but the tempo is at a slow pace. Being able to go out there, compete against the guys, and I’m all about competition … I’m super excited for that,” Morrow said.
“You go out there each day and give the best you can and show the coaches that you belong on the team.”
He said the scrimmage is a perfect opportunity to show off some of the things he does best.
“Just my big-play ability, to be able to run past, catch the ball, block and really show out on special teams,” Morrow said.
“I’m really looking forward to getting out there on special teams and making a mark there.”
Morrow joined the club after four seasons at Washington State University. In 50 career collegiate games, he had 316 carries for 1,795 yards and nine touchdowns. He also had 202 catches for 1,748 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Morrow had 24 kickoff returns for 476 yards along with 22 punt returns for 200 yards.