Cody Fajardo hasn’t closed the book on another chapter with Riders

As he cleaned out his locker on Sunday, quarterback Cody Fajardo didn’t rule out returning to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2023

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While Cody Fajardo isn’t completely closing the book on his return to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the events of the past two weeks have left some lingering wounds.

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The Riders quarterback addressed those topics during a media availability during Sunday’s Trash Bag Day at Mosaic Stadium.

Fajardo was the center of attention as the players cleaned out their lockers, a day after their regular season ended with a 36-10 loss to the host Calgary Stampeders.

“It’s very sad when you gave everything you had for three years and gave up for the last two games,” Fajardo said. “I would have liked to go down with the ship for those last two games and whatever happens after that happens.

“The fact that I didn’t play those two games really hurt me and it was very emotional for me. It’s a difficult situation because one of your best friends in the team has the opportunity to start and I was demoted, I was between a rock and a hard place.

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Riders head coach Craig Dickenson disagreed with Fajardo’s perception of going down with the ship.

“As leaders of the organization, the idea of ​​sinking with the ship is noble and honorable, but it’s our job not to sink,” Dickenson said. “We are doing everything we can to keep this ship afloat. If it means making a change, we’re going to make a change. If it means making a move, we’ll try to make a move.

Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Brett Lauther (left) rests on a bench as catcher Shaq Evans cleans out his locker during Sunday's trash bag day.
Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Brett Lauther (left) rests on a bench as catcher Shaq Evans cleans out his locker during Sunday’s trash bag day. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Chief’s Post

The Riders have fallen dramatically in 2022 after opening the season with a 4-1 record. They lost nine of their next 11 games, including a seven-game losing streak to end the season, and missed the playoffs with a 6-12 record.

Fajardo was benched for the game against the Stampeders on Oct. 22. A victory for the Riders would have kept their slim playoff hopes alive for another week. With Fine making his first CFL start as a quarterback, the Riders’ playoff hopes were dashed by a 32-21 loss to the visiting Stampeders. Then came Saturday’s meaningless finale.

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Fajardo dressed for both games, seeing limited action in Game 1 against the Stampeders. He didn’t come off the bench on Saturday as Fine went the distance.

Was Dickenson asked that he didn’t sit Fajardo and dress substitutes Jake Dolegala or Levi Lewis in order to assess them in a meaningless game?

“We felt that Cody and Mason were our two best quarterbacks that gave us a chance to win,” Dickenson said. “The fact that Cody didn’t come in was unfortunate, but the game didn’t dictate it and we were able to let Mason in.

“We still have Jake under contract (for 2023) and we think Levi will be a good quarterback as well. We were trying to win games, so we dressed these two quarterbacks.

After his benching was official, Fajardo looked like he was done with the Riders and was ready to file for free agency in February. His stance had softened on Sunday.

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“I’m not going to rule this place out because I’d like to come back and play here,” Fajardo said. “I received over 1,000 emails, text messages and direct messages from fans contacting me and wanting me back.

“It’s not my decision. If it’s on the table and it’s a good fit, I’d like to end my career here.

Saskatchewan Roughriders center Dan Clark had his hands full cleaning out his locker at Mosaic Stadium on Sunday.
Saskatchewan Roughriders center Dan Clark had his hands full cleaning out his locker at Mosaic Stadium on Sunday. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Chief’s Post

In this context, Dickenson will meet Jeremy O’Day, general manager of the Riders and vice president of football operations, over the next few days. One of the topics will be what to do with their starting quarterback.

“The reality is there’s only a limited number of starting quarterbacks in the league and you don’t want to cut your nose off to upset your face,” Dickenson said. “Jeremy and I will have good discussions, get the coaches involved. and assess the quarterback’s position in the league.

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“Cody has won a lot of football games for us and done a lot of really good things. I don’t want to say it’s the end of the road for him, but we will definitely assess the position and look at all of our options.

Fajardo will also consider his options.

“I really don’t think the book is finished,” he said. “It might be the end of the chapter, but you never know because there are a lot of crazy things going on in the CFL. If there is a possibility of me being back, I would love to be in the Green and White, but there are a lot of rumors that make me go elsewhere.

Looking back to the 2022 season, Fajardo felt the turning point came in July during a COVID-19 outbreak. The team had 13 players and staff testing positive and another 10 were in quarantine.

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The outbreak led to the cancellation of two practices and a game against the visiting Toronto Argonauts was moved from July 23 to July 24. Dolegala replaced Fajardo and Fine, who were both battling COVID-19. The Riders then lost 31-21 to fall to 4-3.

“If we had the chance to play our full roster and win this game, it might have been different at the end of the year,” Fajardo said. “We wouldn’t have played ‘this team has to win here and this team has to lose.’ It was two weeks in a row and Jake started and we didn’t even have enough players to have multiple packages.

“We had a formation that we could go to. We were pretty much handicapped in attack. I really think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back or triggered the slowdown.

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Angela C. Hale