The start of the 2009 CFL season is still over a week away, and already it would appear as if Saskatchewan Roughrider trainer Ivan Gutfriend may be the organization’s most valuable man again this year.
As you know. Gutfriend had many injuries to deal with last season, and already the team has three injuries on the offensive side of the ball as they get ready for the season opener.
We already knew Wayne Smith was done for the season with after rupturing his Achilles tendon. We already knew Wes Cates will likely miss the opener if not more as he recovers from an off-season shoulder procedure and now word last night that Gene Makowsky will miss some time after suffering a knee injury. Add that to the fact Leron Mitchell and Dave McKoy are on the nine game injured list as they continue to rehab injuries suffered last season and it appears the trainers table will be the busiest place in the Rider dressing room again this year.
Yes, the injuries to Cates and Makowsky are not as devastating as the ones suffered last year by D-J Flick, Andy Fantuz and Belton Johnson amongst others, but at least those injuries happened during the regular season.
Not having Smith, Cates and Makowsky will make it a little tougher to beat the Lions on opening night. The team has shown it has some great depth on the offensive line, and I would expect either Chris Best or Jordan Rempel to step in, but neither player is the calibre of Makowsky. Then again, that could be said about many offensive linemen in the CFL.
Smith is a solid force on that line and his veteran experience will be missed while Cates when healthy is likely the best running back in the CFL. Not having him in the backfield will make it a little more difficult for Darian Durant even though Hugh Charles showed he can fill the void with his performance Tuesday.
The 2008 Riders managed to fight through the injury bug to the point where they won 12 games. It was quite the feat to consider what they went through and how many wins they did achieve. Its one of the reasons why I believe Ken Miller should have been the CFL coach of the year.
If the football gods are frowning upon the Riders again by unleashing another battle with the injury bug, (can I go to Walmart and buy some kind of Raid that will repel the injury bug) I don’t know if fans can realistically expect to have a repeat performance of 2008. It’s not a condemnation of the football team and it’s not an excuse either. Its just reality. The team brought in a lot of talent this year and there are many guys that can play the game, but if they lose regular after regular for an extended period of time, can they win 12 games again in 2009. If they can, Ken Miller may be considered a miracle-worker and I will ask him if he can walk on water. Of course, I won’t ask him to do this on a 30 below day while we stand beside Wascana Lake.
Here’s hoping Ivan’s workday becomes a little less stressful and that he is a little less active. That for the Riders would be the best news of all.