REGINA – Darian Durant’s contributions aren’t limited to those on the field.
The fifth-year Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback has played a role in encouraging some of the team’s young offensive stars to re-sign or agree to contract extensions. Durant helped to set the tone when he signed a contract extension during the off-season rather than head into his option year.
“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” Durant said after Thursday’s practice at Mosaic Stadium. “It’s as green as it’s going to be right here.”
The Riders reaped the benefits of Durant’s commitment with Thursday’s announcement that import receiver Weston Dressler had signed a contract extension.
“I told him that I was committed to being here and I wanted you guys here with me,” Durant said. “In order to accomplish the things we want to, we need to stay together as a group.”
The Riders’ management identified re-signing its core group of offensive players as one of the team’s off-season priorities. Since the 2009 season ended, the Riders have re-signed wide receiver Rob Bagg, Durant and slotbacks Dressler, Chris Getzlaf and Andy Fantuz. Terms of the contracts were not revealed but the Riders have locked up their future for time being.
“We talk about it all of the time,” said Durant. “We know that each year is a new one personnel-wise. The thing we want to do around here is keep building on the relationship that we have. I was in constant contact with Rob and Getz during the off-season and telling them to make sure they come back because I’ll be here. I did the same thing with Dressler.”
Dressler is heading into his third season with the Riders and option year of a contract he signed as a rookie in 2008. Since then the diminutive slotback (5-foot-7 and 179 pounds) was selected the CFL’s most outstanding rookie in 2008 and has emerged as a big-play threat on offence.
Dressler’s 2009 season ended Oct. 10 when he suffered a broken right fibula and sprained ankle in a 32-22 victory over the visiting Toronto Argonauts. Dressler was sidelined for the remainder of the season, including the Riders’ two playoff games. He spent the off-season recovering from the injury but hasn’t appeared to lose a step, despite missing the first day of training camp.
“They were waiting to see how his leg looked and they were rewarded,” said Durant. “He looks good and it’s well deserved.”
Dressler said being part of the Riders’ young offensive crew was included in his decision to extend his contract. Dressler and Bagg are 25. Fantuz is 26. Durant and Getzlaf are both 27.
“We’ve worked together for the last few years now and we’ve been pretty successful,” said Dressler, who in 29 regular-season games has 118 receptions for 2,069 yards and 10 touchdowns. “We know that the more we work together and the more playing time we have together, the better we can get. We’re all happy to be here and happy to be together.”
Bagg and Dressler are also good friends away from the field. Bagg, who also joined the Riders full-time in 2008, said he didn’t put too much pressure on Dressler to re-sign.
“He knew that I wanted to continue to play with him,” said Bagg. “We’ve got a great receiving corps. To have myself, Getz, Fantuz, Dressler along with Darian also extending ... we’re pretty happy about that.”
Bagg and Durant both feel the Montreal Alouettes are an example of the benefits of teammates staying together for an extended period.
“They have [Anthony] Calvillo, [Ben] Cahoon and [Kerry] Watkins,” said Bagg. “They have developed a lot of chemistry and have had a lot of success over the years. It’s important that you stay together and when you don’t have to learn the tendencies of each other each season, you’re that much ahead of the game.”
Dressler, a native of Bismarck, N.D., and a graduate of the University of North Dakota, has settled in with the Riders and the community. Dressler and defensive end Luc Mullinder were ambassadors during the off-season for the Red Cross’s anti-bullying message. They combined for visits to 42 Saskatchewan schools and talked to 8,000 kids.
“The fans here are the best in the CFL,” said Dressler, who declined to reveal contract details. “To be a part of that is a great experience as a player. It’s something that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Dressler said he considered his options before electing to re-sign with the Riders.
“Ultimately this was the best situation for me,” said Dressler.