Veteran Harris has no doubts that he'll be ready for the start of Riders camp

Trevor Harris will be full-go when the Saskatchewan Roughriders open training camp in May.

The veteran quarterback missed most of last season — his first in Regina — with a significant knee injury. But Harris told reporters Thursday he could have returned at about 70 per cent efficiency had Saskatchewan reached the West Division final and was back at full strength by Christmas.

"I'm just doing maintenance now," he said during a video conference. "Right around Christmas time . . . I was able to do everything I needed to do movement-wise, strength-wise, quickness-wise, being comfortable taking hits.

"I was really pleased with that because it gave me the entire off-season to work on things I wanted to work on . . . and hit an off-season full speed as opposed to thinking about the injury up to the eight-month mark, which is about the time frame (eight to 10 months) they gave me."

Saskatchewan was 3-1 when Harris suffered a season-ending tibial plateau fracture in his right knee in a home loss to Calgary on July 15. The Riders (6-12) earned just three wins the rest of the way, losing their final seven regular-season games for a second straight year to miss the CFL playoffs.

The six-foot-three, 212-pound Harris completed 104-of-155 passes (67.6 per cent) for 1,274 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions last season. The Waldo, Ohio, native enters his 12th CFL season having started 101-of-166 games and sporting an impressive 70.6 completion average.

In the off-season, Saskatchewan hired Corey Mace — formerly Toronto's defensive co-ordinator — as head coach and Calgary quarterback coach Marc Mueller as offensive co-ordinator. Mueller, a Regina native, also played collegiately there and is the grandson of legendary Riders quarterback Ron Lancaster, who died in '08 at age 69.

But Saskatchewan's off-season moves didn't stop there. General manager Jeremy O'Day also added running back A.J. Ouellette (1,000-yard rusher last year with Toronto), offensive tackle Jermarcus Hardrick (West's top lineman last season with Winnipeg), defensive back Jalon Edwards-Cooper (B.C.), linebacker Jameer Thurman (Hamilton) and defensive lineman Malik Carney (Ticats) while also retaining receiver Shawn Bane Jr. (93 catches, 1,104 yards, four TDs), Canadian offensive lineman Phillip Blake and defensive linemen Micah Johnson and Anthony Lanier II.

Harris might still be preparing for the 2024 season but his wit was in midseason form given how he addressed Saskatchewan's busy off-season.

"I'm really disgruntled," he deadpanned. "It's been really, really tough for me to see A.J. Ouellette leave Toronto . . . it's been very difficult to see Jermarcus Hardrick, offensive lineman of the year, come and be protecting us.

"Such great pass rushers and DBs we've signed, some rookies we're looking forward to seeing. (Seriously) they've done a tremendous job and I think they've stepped up and (taken) a stance to say we're going all-in this year, this is the year we're really going to do this thing."

Saskatchewan's last Grey Cup win came in 2013.

Harris has played for two Grey Cup-winning teams (Toronto, 2012; Ottawa, 2016) during a CFL career that's seen him also spend time with the Argos (2012-15), Redblacks (2016-18), Edmonton (2019, 2021) and Montreal (2021-22). He had a career-high 33 TD strikes in 2015 and three years later registered his only 5,000-yard season (5,116).

But Harris turns 38 on May 31 and is coming off an season-ending injury.

Harris has suggested he could see himself playing well into his 40s. While he still feels that's possible, Harris said at a point in his career he's taking it year by year.

"Serious injuries can change things because there were times early in this off-season where I was like, "I don't know if I can do it," Harris said. "Right around Christmas was when I was like, 'OK, I think we can do this.'

"I think that's still an attainable goal but I'm just going to be one year at a time. Listen to my body, listen to my mind, listen to my family and kind of go from there."

Harris is entering the final year of his CFL contract and said there have been no discussions about an extension. Of more importance, Harris said, is getting the Riders back on track and giving their rabid fans plenty to cheer about.

"I took it very personal last year what happened and it's just been kind of a personal mindset this off-season in terms of we're not going to let that happen again," Harris said. "It feels like a fresh start, it doesn't feel like a brand new team . . . it just seems like there's a new feeling (within) the organization.

"It has really excited me and the guys I've been talking to. I think the fans can really get excited about the team this year and really get behind it."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2024.

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