Last night 250 people jammed the Wylie Mitchell Hall in Estevan as new Riders Mr. Everything Chris Jones met with Rider fans for the first time since taking over the team. Jones only has 3 public speaking engagements scheduled this off-season so fans were very eager to hear what he had to say and he didn’t disappoint. Below are a few of the highlights:
Me: Coach did you find a place to live yet?
Jones: I’m a football junkie. I’m at the office from 3 am to 7pm. I’m never home, so I’m going to do what I did in Edmonton and live in a hotel. Somebody makes my bed everyday, I come home and my meal is made for me. All my clothes will be in my locker at the stadium. I’ve got 5 black shirts and 3 pairs of jeans and then my team gear that’s it!
Me: Have you talked to Dressler or Chick since you released them?
Jones: I talked to John at length before I made the decision. On the plane flying in for this banquet I was sitting next to Weston. It was a good conversation. I told him there are no hard feelings on my end , it’s just business. I said Weston you are great player and I wish you the best in Winnipeg. He mentioned that he liked our new strength and conditioning coach. I told Weston he’s welcome to workout at our facility anytime. I respect the kid! It wasn’t an easy decision to release those guys, I had many sleepless nights. Bottom line I can’t have 3 or 4 guys making 1/3 of our salary structure. It’s the CFL and we need to be realistic about player’s salaries in this league.
Me: How is Darian Durant’s rehab process going? Are you nervous about him making a full recovery?
Jones: We won’t know for sure until we hit the field but things appear to be moving along nicely. I expect to get at least two good healthy years out of Darian for sure. When healthy he’s a tough SOB to play against; a squatty, tough, smart QB.
Me: What about your backup quarterback situation?
Jones: I like Brett Smith, he’s a good player but we are going to be working guys out to find that next guy. In this league you need 3 good quarterbacks. In fact I’ll be joining a couple of my assistants in Texas this weekend to work 3 guys out..
Me: Most of your coaching staff followed you to Regina from Edmonton, can we expect some of that same loyalty with the players when free agency kicks off?
Jones: (laughs) I sure hope so! We will be active in free agency but we won’t be spending what I like to call credit card money. What I found interesting after taking over this job was the fact players were paid extremely well here.
Me: Did you think management had to over pay to get players to come to Saskatchewan?
Jones: I don’t know but it won’t happen now! We won’t be cheap. We’ll be fair and realistic!
Me: Speaking of realism, what’s your realistic expectation for this team this season?
Jones: ( He’s never missed the playoffs in 14 years in the CFL) I’ll tell you one thing… this is going to be fun. My realistic expectation? To win the Grey Cup! I play to win!!
Jones is definitely as advertised; no-nonsense and full of confidence. But I think he surprised people last night with his friendly down to earth nature. He took pictures and shook hands with the fans and really seemed to enjoy his first speaking engagement. I’m officially stoked for 2016 in Rider Nation!