TORONTO — The Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts will complete their back-to-back series a day later than originally planned.
The Riders announced Thursday the return engagement will be played Sunday night at Mosaic Stadium after 13 players and five staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The two teams had been scheduled to meet Saturday night but after dropping a 30-24 decision to Toronto on Saturday in Wolfville, N.S., the Riders were unable to practise Tuesday or Wednesday.
The Riders were able to practise Thursday but according to the team's injury report 15 players didn't participate. That included starter Cody Fajardo (knee, illness) and backup Mason Fine (illness).
After practice, Riders head coach Craig Dickenson told reporters he expects Jake Dolegala, the team's No. 3 quarterback and a CFL rookie, to start Sunday.
"To have to move our game is a worst-case scenario for us and something we never want to have to do,” Roughriders president/CEO Craig Reynolds said in the statement. "We know that our fans often plan to attend Rider games weeks and months in advance and there can be a lot of travel and logistics involved in that decision.
"For that, we are truly sorry, but we hope by keeping the game on the same weekend and moving it to Sunday our fans will still be able to make it out to enjoy Family Day at Mosaic Stadium.”
The Argos provided a sign earlier Thursday the game wouldn't go ahead as originally scheduled when they cancelled their practice and added it wasn't for COVID-related reasons.
On Thursday, the CFL suggested the Riders' COVID-19 situation was getting better.
"The postponement was caused by a number of positive COVID-19 tests among Roughriders players and staff earlier this week," the league said. "The situation has improved, and medical officials are now confident the game can go ahead safely on Sunday."
On Wednesday, the Riders announced 10 players were still sidelined following positive tests but three more had been removed from COVID protocol.
Jeremy O'Day, the Riders' GM/vice-president of football operations said players "in just about every position," had been impacted and the outbreak was the result the team travelling on planes and buses and sharing hotel rooms.
The team took two days off following the loss to Toronto but cancelled practices Tuesday and Wednesday. O'Day added the Riders continue to follow the CFL's COVID-19 protocols and remain in regular contact with the league regarding the situation.
The rescheduled game still gives Saskatchewan time to prepare for its July 29 home contest versus the B.C. Lions.
Following Sunday's contest, Toronto will host the Ottawa Redblacks on July 31.
It's unclear if Saskatchewan receiver Duke Williams and Toronto defensive lineman Eli Mencer will play Sunday. Both were suspended for one game by the CFL for their actions last weekend in Nova Scotia.
Before that game, Williams removed Toronto defensive back Shaquille Richardson's helmet and threw it at him. After the contest, Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie accused Williams of twice spitting in Richardson's face -- in the pre-game altercation and then later in the game.
Richardson received a maximum fine (half a game cheque) for his role in the incident.
Mencer was banned for derogatory language towards an official during the game. There has been no indication whether either Williams or Mencer would appeal their suspensions.
Saskatchewan will also be without defensive lineman Garrett Marino, who last week began serving a four-game suspension for a low hit on Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
The Riders said they plan to have "nearly all" of their regularly-scheduled activities going Sunday. There was no indication regarding what events wouldn't be held.
Fans with tickets to Saturday's game will automatically have them moved to Sunday the club said, adding "no action is required on the part of the ticket holder."
“We have had an unfortunate reminder that COVID-19 is still a reality in our lives, but we will put our best foot forward when we play Sunday night,” Reynolds said. "Family Day is one of my favourite games every year, and I can’t wait to have our fans there to cheer us on."
This marks the first CFL game that's been rescheduled this season due to COVID-19.
Last year, the Edmonton Elks had an outbreak that led to the postponement of a game against Toronto that was ultimately made up later in the year.
The 2020 CFL season was cancelled because of the global pandemic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2022
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press