Friday , March 31 2023

Not worth the risk: Riders coach Chris Jones explains the decision to sit on Collaros


Zach Collaros was healthy and ready to lead Saskatchewan to a Gray Cup championship in 2018. But Roughriders's head coach, Chris Jones, could not risk the back's health again.

Collaros has not dressed in the CFL West Division semifinal against Blue Bombers, a game that Winnipeg has won from 23-18 to advance to the West End of the weekend in Calgary. Jones made the decision less than 24 hours before the kickoff on Sunday, after Collaros told him that something had been stopped.

"(Collaros) just said he does not feel good," Jones said after the season's loss. "He did not say it was a contusion. He just said he did not feel 100% and I did not want to risk another situation like the one I had with Ottawa earlier this year.

The Bombs hit the Riders, they advance to the West End

Instead, Brandon Bridge started at the Riders. He was grabbed as a starter at the beginning of the week, as Collaros's status remained debatable.

The script reminded Jones earlier in the season when Collaros missed four games after having suffered a weekend hit against Redblacks.

Jones said Collaros came back from Riders' weekend after he took a brutal kick from Odell Willis's helmet in the regular match of the team's regular season on Oct. 27 versus B.C. Lions.

"(Collaros) was removed, so on paper he could go. I just did not feel comfortable playing it," Jones said. "It was a kind of review in the week of Ottawa and I did not want to scream."

On Sunday, Bridge made 12-by-22s for 100 meters. He also carried the ball five times for the team 86 meters high.

Zach Collaros out, Brandon Bridge for Roughriders in the Western semifinal against Blue Bombers

The rider failed to find the end zone until the end of the fourth quarter, when Nick Marshall scored in a one-court race.

"I feel we left some pieces on the ground and we needed to do it," said Riders Naaman Roosevelt. "It's going to be done. Things like blocking, catching the ball, running the right tracks and making those tracks is what's going on. Whoever is (at the backs) just has to do what's called."

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"It's hard to say," Jones said. "Brandon did a really good job for him. (Winnipeg) he pressed a lot and who would say that some guy would have been better?

Saskatchewan player Willie Jefferson said it was a play that separated Blue Bombers and Riders from Sunday – a two-meter shot ran away from Andrew Harris with five minutes remaining, a score that put visitors ahead 23-12.

"It came to whoever wanted more," Jefferson said. "Their offense capitalized on a large piece and went into the end zone. Our offense could not enter the end zone when they had chances.

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Race offense, however, was set for four field goals from kicker Brett Lauther.

"We had our opportunities," Jones said. "If we could have one of those balls for a touchdown, it could be different."

For the second consecutive game, a headache on a Roughriders defender had the CFL fans buzzing after the game ended.

While the Riders tracked 23-18 in the final minute of the game, Bridge was crushed by a hit from Jackson Jeffcoat in Winnipeg, one step down. Bridge stood motionless on the lawn for a few minutes, before he left under his power.

There was no punishment on the play.

CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said on Twitter after the match that the Bridge shot was "a lost call.

"Seeing this and seeing through the site that the referee's opinion on the field was blocked, my reaction is that we have to look out of season, allowing the Command Center to appeal to parts such as this one, a health and safety player. We have to do more than recognize an error. We have to look for a solution. "

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