Cody Fajardo almost got away with not having to talk about the play that sent the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to the 2019 Grey Cup.
In Thursday’s league-sponsored media availability day, nine CFL stars, split into groups of three, hopped on Zoom to answer questions from the media. The opening session featured Fajardo, the starting quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders; Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell; and Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence.
After 30 minutes of discussing a wide variety of topics, the second-last question of the call was directed at Fajardo, reminding him that this week was the one-year anniversary of the ‘Doink!’ heard round the Prairies.
“I reached out to the goalposts. We’re friends now. I’m a very forgiving person,” said Fajardo.
The Riders trailed the Bombers 20-13 in last year’s West Division final at Mosaic Stadium when Fajardo’s potential game-tying pass into the end zone hit the upright with no time left on the clock.
“The goalpost promised me there’s a brighter future ahead… We’ve amended our relationship and I’m looking forward to next year.”
But it wasn’t just a reporter who wanted to talk about the heartbreaking finish to Fajardo’s season.
“Hold on, real quick, Cody. I gotta ask,” chimed in Mitchell, whose team fell 35-14 to the Blue and Gold in the West Division semifinal the week before. “I haven’t seen the film of it. I only saw the TV live version. If it doesn’t hit the goalpost, is the ball caught?”
Fajardo responded: “It’s a tight window, but I definitely thought I put enough on it. I had to rip it to put it in there, but I definitely think (receiver Kyran Moore) was open. I truly believe it would’ve been a bang-bang play… But I think when I let it go, I’m like ‘We’re about to tie this game up.’ I’m saying 75 per cent chance it’s completed there. That’s being biased.”
In the following call, two of the participants, Zach Collaros and Matt Nichols, had no issue discussing last year’s post-season as it ended exactly how they had hoped.
Nichols, who signed with the Toronto Argonauts earlier this year after spending the past five seasons in Winnipeg, and current Bombers starting pivot Collaros were also joined by Edmonton quarterback Trevor Harris.
Nichols started the 2019 season for the Bombers before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 10. Despite the fact he was on the sidelines for that wild game in Regina, as well as the Grey Cup victory the following week in Calgary, he told reporters he felt like he had an important role in helping the team get over the hump.
The final player call featured B.C. Lions receiver Lemar Durant, Montreal Alouettes linebacker Henoc Muamba and Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Nick Arbuckle.
“I know that I showed up early in the morning every day still working with the guys and trying to be kind of a player-coach and be as involved as possible. I’ve been in the league for 11 years and that was my first experience even getting to go to a Grey Cup and being able to experience that,” said Nichols, who also mentioned he plans to attend an Arizona Cardinals game this season to show some support for another former Bombers QB, Chris Streveler.
“I soaked it all in and celebrated it and had a great time. Who’s to say how much me being around the back half of the season helped out, I don’t know. I know I played half the games that year and helped us win some football games to help us get to that point. So I do feel like I was definitely a part of it.
“Collaros jumped in afterward and gave Nichols a lot of credit for accepting him into the locker room and making his transition into the Winnipeg offence easy. With Collaros being at the controls in the Grey Cup, the organization made the choice this off-season to roll with him moving forward and let Nichols walk. When Nichols spoke with the media in February after signing with the Boatmen, he downplayed the notion he’ll be out for revenge when he gets to play his old team.
“It seems like it’s so far away to really try and think too much about it,” said Nichols when asked if he still feels the same way. “I know whether it’s a pre-season game or a Western final, I feel like I’ve always had the same mentality. I don’t think playing against my old team would change my mindset or anything, but I can tell you beating them would be probably sweeter than most wins.”
“Oh, there’s going to be a chip. There’s going to be a chip on your shoulder,” said Collaros with a big grin.
All the players disagreed about who would have been hoisting the Grey Cup over their head in Regina this Sunday if there was a season, but they were all on the same page when it came to being eager about getting back onto the field in 2021.
On Monday, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie provided an update on the league and faced some criticism as he didn’t share a clear plan on how the CFL will be able to have a season in 2021. Since cancelling the 2020 campaign, the CFL has been mostly quiet, but Mitchell, arguably the league’s biggest star, is cutting the commish some slack.
“I don’t think it’d be smart to come out and say ‘Hey, we’re playing a 2021 season and this is how we’re doing it’ because as you guys are seeing, Toronto and other places are shutting back down right now,” Mitchell said. “It’s kind of a mixed bag of not knowing and I don’t think there’s a lot of frustration, I think everybody’s anxious and wanting to get back. All the players want to get back on the field and we know the fans want to see (us play), so, as soon as those guys have the ability to make that decision, I’m sure we’ll hear something.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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