James Patrick and rest of Roughriders defence adjusting to position shuffle
REGINA - Slowly but surely, James Patrick is adjusting to his new position in the Saskatchewan Roughriders' secondary, and that is not good news for opposing offences.
Last year, Patrick lined up at safety, and led the Canadian Football League in interceptions with nine. He started the 2011 campaign in his familiar spot, but midway through the season, defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall moved him to "dimeback," a hybrid between defensive back and linebacker.
Patrick, fully recovered now from an early-season sprained ankle has taken it all in stride.
"It's not new. It's still part of the secondary," Patrick said on Friday as the Roughriders (2-7) stepped up preparations for Sunday's rematch with the Blue Bombers (7-2) in Winnipeg.
"The secondary's the secondary, man. A defensive back's a defensive back, know what I'm saying?” he added. "It's all about getting to the football and making plays, regardless of what position you’re playing.
"Execution is execution."
Patrick's replacement at safety is Craig Butler, a rookie from the University of Western Ontario.
The Roughriders selected Butler with their first pick in the Canadian college draft a year ago.
Butler's potential and his rapid development have given Hall the option of relocating Patrick.
"Butler's doing just fine back there," Patrick said. "He's starting to gel, totally. He's working hard and getting to the football and he's making plays. That's what it's all about.
"We try different things all the time," he added. "That’s why we practice. To see what works and what doesn't. We've got a lot of guys on this team who can play other positions and go out on the field and perform."
Lance Frazier, a veteran who plays an inside position in the Roughriders' secondary, is supportive of his defensive co-ordinator and speaks encouragingly of his teammate.
"James is a great athlete and a versatile player," Frazier said. "He has a knack of getting to the football, and this puts him closer to the football. That's what I like about it."
Frazier, too, has high praise for Butler.
"He's probably one of the best rookies I've seen on this team in the six years I've been here," Frazier said.
"Like any rookie, he has a lot to learn, but he's learning fast. He's getting better each week. He's hard-nosed and he's tough. He's quick and he's strong. He's going to make an impact. He already has."
While it has created an opportunity for Butler, the decision to shift Patrick from safety to dimeback has cost another veteran, Sean Lucas, his starting assignment in the secondary.
Lucas, in his sixth season with the Roughriders, has conducted himself as a consummate professional. He has been tutoring Patrick in practice.
"That shows a lot of class on his part. But that's the type of individual Sean is," said Frazier. "In my opinion, he's the true definition of a team leader."