Fajardo moving on from 2019 West Division final
Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo doesn’t plan on wasting time when it comes to flushing the memories of the CFL’s 2019 West Division final.
A late rally by the Roughriders against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers came up short after Fajardo’s pass intended for Kyran (Swerve) Moore bounced off the upright on the game’s final offensive play, which was scrimmaged from the visitors’ eight-yard line. The Blue Bombers went on to win 20-13 and later defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-12 in the 107th Grey Cup game.
Fajardo will seek immediate closure when the Roughriders arrive for training camp in Saskatoon in May. He plans to place the football on the eight-yard line, at the left hash mark, and have Moore run the same route into the end zone.
“I’m going to throw the ball over the goal post and have Swerve catch it,” Fajardo says. “That will just end whatever negative thoughts I had right there at the start of training camp.”
Fajardo is still dealing with what might have taken place if the pass was completed.
“The hardest thing I’ve had to cope with this entire off-season is that the play never played out,” Fajardo says from his off-season home in Washington, D.C. “If I had thrown an interception at the end of the game, I would have been really upset with myself, but at least I would have known what happened and there was some closure.”
The 27-year-old Fajardo finished the playoff game despite two torn oblique muscles. He still threw for 366 yards, but didn’t complete a touchdown pass and threw one interception. He says his recovery is going well and that he has been cleared to start throwing on Jan. 21.
“I can sneeze, I can cough and do all the things now that were killing me before and I’m excited to pick up a ball again,” Fajardo says. “It’s one of those injuries where you just wait and wonder, ‘Do I feel better?’ Well, I feel better, but I can’t really do anything to stress it unless I’m trying to throw.”
Fajardo revealed that he dealt with more than the torn oblique muscles during his run to being named the West Division’s most outstanding player and a CFL all-star in his first season as a CFL starting quarterback.
He said that he separated his right shoulder while diving for the game-winning touchdown during the Riders’ 24-19 win over the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Aug. 1. He started the next week, completing 15 of 21 passes for 166 yards in the Riders’ storm-shortened 17-10 win over the host Montreal Alouettes.
“The doctors said I probably wasn’t going to be able to throw for a couple of weeks,” Fajardo recalls. “I got a little sprinkle of Jesus and my arm felt good three days after (being injured).”
Fajardo also broke his right middle finger during a practice two days before the Riders beat the Toronto Argonauts 41-16 on Sept. 21. He played despite the broken finger, which wasn’t diagnosed until later in the season.
“The doctor told me that if they had found it the week it happened, they probably would have shut me down for six weeks to get it all healed up,” says Fajardo, who started 16 of 18 regular-season games while completing 18 touchdown passes and rushing for 10 majors. “Right now, I’ve just got a funky middle finger that doesn’t affect my throwing.”
Fajardo opened the 2019 season as the backup to Zach Collaros. That changed in the regular-season opener when Collaros suffered a concussion on the third play from scrimmage. Fajardo took over and played so well that the Riders eventually traded Collaros to the Toronto Argonauts. Collaros was later traded to the Blue Bombers and led them to the Grey Cup victory.
Fajardo heads into the 2020 season as the Riders’ undisputed starter and is looking forward to working with the starters during training camp.
“A lot of people don’t realize this, but when we started 1-and-3, the biggest problem was because I didn’t get any reps with the ones (starters) in training camp,” he says. “All I had was reps with the twos and threes so our timing on offence was off. I also think that (offensive co-ordinator) Stephen McAdoo was trying to figure out who I was as a quarterback. I’m just excited to hit the ground running with these guys and go from there.”
Jason Maas has taken over for McAdoo, whose contract wasn’t renewed after four seasons with the Riders. Maas was the Edmonton Eskimos’ head coach and offensive co-ordinator for the past three seasons.
“Coach Maas said was he was going to build this offence around me and my strengths,” Fajardo says. “He didn’t want to put in a completely new offence because we did some really good things last year. He’s going to have enough wrinkles in there that I’m going to feel comfortable and I’m going to feel good about what we have.”
On Thursday, Riders outside linebacker Derrick Moncrief agreed to terms with the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders. Moncrief, a Roughrider from 2017 to 2019, was named a CFL all-star last season.
Fajardo, who signed a two-year contract extension with the Riders on Oct. 21 for a reported value of $450,000 per season, isn’t interested in playing in the NFL.
“I love the CFL and I’ve said that without the CFL that I wouldn’t be playing football,” he says. “I’m in a position now where my contract is good enough where I’m not chasing money. Sometimes when you’re an American linebacker like Moncrief, you might chase the money a little bit because what you’re making in the CFL isn’t close to what you can make in the NFL.
“I see myself as a CFL lifer, and we’ll see what happens over the next couple of years. Right now, I don’t see any reason why I would want to leave.”
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