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Saskatchewan Roughriders face toughest adversary to date in COVID-19

It is business as usual for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but these are far from usual times.

While most of society focuses on physical distancing, the Riders’ operations staff is strategizing salary caps and player ratios.

COVID-19 has abruptly thrown the world into a holding pattern, but CFL teams are preparing anyway.

On Monday, the CFL officially delayed the start of training camps, which were scheduled to kickoff the middle of May. One would have to assume the season will be delayed as well, if not shortened or even cancelled.

Riders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day said the team has to prepare on the assumption there will be games to play with very little notice.

“We will adapt,” O’Day said during a video-conference with media.

“We will do the best that we can, but we’re all on the same playing field. Any season for me would be great.”

The CFL has discussed many possible scenarios, including a shortened season with the Grey Cup still being played in Regina in November.

For CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, no season at all is unthinkable. Not that he will necessarily have a choice.

As of today, the only thing out of the norm for O’Day is that he is working from home, as is the rest of his staff.

They can still watch tape, evaluate players and draw up playbooks. But they will quickly get to a point where it is far from normal.

Come the May long weekend, the stadium will be closed, the locker room empty and the field quiet.

“It’s a challenging time,” O’Day said.

He is confident in the team’s ability to plan, be prepared and adapt, but called it “an uneasy time” because there is so much uncertainty.

Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day, working from home, in a video conference call with media. (Glenn Reid/CBC)

It’s especially uneasy for the players, who have no idea when they will see their next paycheque. They will not get paid again until training camp starts.

In the CFL, players do not have guaranteed salaries when no games are played. Coaches, who are on yearly contracts, do.

In the meantime, how does a player properly train for a season while trapped inside the confines of their own home?

O’Day visualizes old Rocky movies.

“Rocky goes into the barn and finds things that will make him stronger and faster.”

On the good news front, all players on the Riders’ roster are apparently healthy and COVID-19 free so far.

“Everyone is doing real well from within the organization and we’ve been communicating with the players as much as possible and right now it’s been pretty positive.”

They still don’t know whether all that they do will be for not. This is not a labour battle between league and union, when all it takes is common sense to get on with the season.

This is their toughest adversary to date and it is relentless.

To talk about football right now seems so trivial.

Coincidentally, the last time the Grey Cup was not awarded in a given year was 100 years ago in 1919.

The world was dealing another nasty bug known as the Spanish Flu.

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