REGINA – Just days after winning the Grey Cup, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have cleaned out their lockers knowing some players from their successful core may not be back.
Star running back Kory Sheets and slotback Weston Dressler — one of quarterback Darian Durant’s favourite targets — will both become free agents in the off-season.
Other players could be lost when Ottawa starts stockpiling its roster with picks from the CFL expansion draft. The existing eight teams will be forced to protect a certain number of players, with the Redblacks then allowed to pick from those left unprotected.
Durant would like to see some key players stay in Saskatchewan, such as Dressler, his neighbour in the locker-room.
“I want the whole nucleus to be together. We’ve been together since ’08,” Durant said Tuesday.
“We put in the time, put in the years so I definitely want him back, but I know he’ll probably explore some opportunities that may be out there for him down south and if it doesn’t work out then I think he’ll be back. This is the place for him. That chemistry we have, you know you saw it throughout the playoffs, and hopefully we’ll get something done.”
FULL COVERAGE: Grey Cup 101
Dressler, who went to the University of North Dakota, joined the Riders in 2008. He has spent his entire career in Saskatchewan. He had a league high 13 receiving touchdowns in 2012.
The receiver says he’s just enjoying the experience of winning the Grey Cup right now, but he also says he would take a look at heading south for the NFL.
“If the right opportunity presented itself, I would definitely take a look at it and have to consider all my options at that point, if I had a real chance,” said Dressler.
Sheets originally signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 2009, then moved to the Miami Dolphins later that season and signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2011. He joined the Roughriders in February 2012.
Sheets captured MVP honours after rushing for a record 197 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in the Grey Cup win on Sunday.
Like Dressler, Sheets also says he’s just going to enjoy being a Grey Cup champion. But he can’t deny that he has his eyes on the NFL.
“I would like to come back, but if the situation is right in the NFL, I can’t stop my heart from going to try and fill that void I have right now,” said Sheets.
“It’s all about the right opportunity and if it’s not the right opportunity, I’m not going to take it. And I wouldn’t play for no other CFL team in the league, so don’t anybody got to worry about that,” he added with a laugh.
Durant said he believes the offences being run in the NFL would suit both Sheets and Dressler.
“I don’t blame those guys for exploring their opportunities. They’re both hell of a players and they deserve the opportunity to play at the highest level, so I’m happy for those guys,” Durant said. “But if it doesn’t work out, I think both of them will be back.”
Saskatchewan could also be without veteran linebacker Mike McCollough next season.
McCollough, who was born in Kingston, Ont., was drafted by the Riders in 2003 and has spent his entire career with the green and white.
After winning his second Grey Cup with the team on Sunday, McCollough said it “could very well be” his last game as a Rider. McCollough said he and his wife would sit down in the coming weeks and “decide what’s next for us.”
Durant said Tuesday that McCollough has meant a lot to him and has done a lot for the organization.
“Man, I’m just glad that if it is his last game, he can go out on top, go out a champion,” said Durant.