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Veteran receiver Jamel Richardson back on football field after 18-month absence

06/24/2015 03:37 EDT | Updated 06/24/2016 05:59 EDT
It's been a long road back for Jamel Richardson.

The veteran Roughriders slotback will play his first CFL game in roughly 18 months Saturday night when Saskatchewan hosts the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the season opener for both clubs. Richardson, 33, tore the anterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament in his left knee midway through the 2013 season while with Montreal and didn't play last year after being released during training camp by the Alouettes.

"Words cannot even explain it," Richardson told reporters earlier this week regarding his long-await return. "I'm very ecstatic.

"I feel like a kid all over again just to come back out here and have an opportunity to show what I can do. I'm going to give the team everything I've got."

The six-foot-five, 215-pound Richardson began his CFL career with Saskatchewan, playing four seasons there before heading to training camp with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. Richardson returned to Canada the following season with Montreal.

Richardson enjoyed his best CFL success in Montreal, helping the club win consecutive Grey Cups (2009-10) and being named the MVP of the second championship contest. Richardson had a league-record 12 100-yard games in 2011 when he registered 112 catches for 1,777 yards (tops among receivers) with 11 TDs.

So far, Richardson said he's had no issues with his surgically repaired knee.

"None," he said. "(On Saturday), it's all about me just going out there doing my job, playing hard to the whistle."

The game also marks the return of starter Darian Durant, who led Saskatchewan to an 8-2 record before suffering a season-ending elbow injury. The Riders were 2-7 without Durant, losing 18-10 to Edmonton in the West Division semifinal.

Tino Sunseri, Seth Doege and Kerry Joseph, who all started in Durant's absence last year, are gone as the Riders signed veteran Kevin Glenn as Durant's backup.

Drew Willy begins his second full season as Winnipeg's starter. Willy began his CFL career with Saskatchewan in '12 before signing with the Bombers as a free agent prior to the 2014 campaign.

The six-foot-three, 217-pound Willy completed 63.8 per cent of his passes for 3,769 yards last season but had more interceptions (16) than touchdowns (14). What's more, the Bombers opened the 2014 campaign winning five of their first six games before dropping 10 of their final 12 contests to finish last in the West Division.

Head coach Mike O'Shea also begins his second full season in Winnipeg, which was 2-8 within the West Division last year.

Prediction: Saskatchewan.

Ottawa Redblacks versus Montreal Alouettes, Thursday night

At Montreal, the Redblacks look to improve upon the two wins they earned in their inaugural season. GM Marcel Desjardins shored up the offence with five new receivers, including Chris Williams (CFL's top rookie in '11, top special-teams player in '12) and Maurice Price (trade, Calgary). Montreal opened 1-7 last year, then went 8-2 with starter Jonathan Crompton before losing 40-24 to Hamilton in the East final. Crompton returns but leading receiver Duron Carter is now an Indianapolis Colt.

Prediction: Montreal

Hamilton versus Calgary, Friday night

At Calgary, a Grey Cup rematch after the Stampeders beat the Tiger-Cats 20-16 at B.C. Place last November. Hamilton returns 22-of-24 starters from last year's squad, including second-year starting quarterback Zach Collaros. The only missing defensive starter is a big one, all-star cornerback Delvin Breaux, who signed as a free agent this off-season with the New Orleans Saints. Brandon Banks, whose punt return TD late in the Grey Cup was nullified by penalty, is a threat to score with every kick he handles. Calgary starter Bo Levi Mitchell, the Grey Cup MVP, again leads a potent Calgary offence that includes rushing leader Jon Cornish.

Prediction: Calgary.

Edmonton versus Toronto, Saturday night

At Fort McMurray, Alta., Toronto is the home team due to scheduling conflicts at Rogers Centre. Trevor Harris opens as the Argos starter with incumbent Ricky Ray (shoulder) on the six-game injured list. Slotback Andre Durie (collarbone) and running back/slotback Anthony Coombs (shoulder) both return after missing much of last year with injuries. Defensive end Ricky Foley, the 100th Grey Cup game's top Canadian, begins his second stint with Toronto. Edmonton's defence was the CFL's stingiest last year while the offence is spearheaded by quarterback Mike Reilly, a threat with both his arm and legs. Adarius Bowman was the league's top receiver last year.

Prediction: Edmonton.

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