Ricky Foley is back among the CFL's elite pass rushers.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders' veteran defensive end is fifth overall in sacks with 11, just one off his career-best. Foley, 32, of Courtice, Ont., was named the league's top Canadian in 2009 when he recorded a CFL-high 12 sacks while with the B.C. Lions.
The six-foot-three, 258-pound Foley has also recorded 51 tackles this season, which is 18 behind his career-high of 69 recorded in '11 with the Toronto Argonauts. While that mark would appear safe considering Saskatchewan has just two regular-season games remaining, Foley needs just one more tackle to post the second-best total of his nine-year CFL career.
But after registering a combined 10 sacks over three campaigns with Toronto (2010-12), Foley is at double-digits in a season for the first time since '09 and has recorded 19 sacks (and counting) since joining the Riders as a free agent prior to the '13 campaign. However, that's of little solace to the former York Lions star, who figures he's left more on the field this year.
"I've had nagging issues, I wouldn't say injuries because I didn't miss time but I've been battling a lot of things this year," Foley said. "I pulled a glute muscle (in 26-13 loss to B.C. on July 12) that I played through and looking at the film I felt I missed a lot.
"I probably should be around 20 (sacks) right now but you know, double-digits is still really good. I think I've put together some good games."
Saskatchewan's defence has made life miserable for quarterbacks this year. John Chick has led the way with a CFL-leading 14 sacks, two ahead of teammate Tearrius George and three in front of Foley. Having to face three top pass-rushing threats certainly presents a challenge for a rival offence.
"It's almost like pick your poison," Foley said. "But the best thing is we know if one of us gets it going, the others will be like, 'OK, go be that guy and I'll cover for you and let you go.'
"It's a pretty good deal like that."
Foley has developed quickly into a top pass-rusher. He didn't start playing football until he got to York and estimates he played roughly 20 games with the Lions before being drafted fourth overall in the '06 CFL draft by B.C.
"I played special-teams most of my first few years with B.C. so I don't really think I have much mileage on me," Foley said. "I've learned how to train now, how to take care of my body, how to eat properly."
And that there's more than one way to win a Grey Cup. During his time in Toronto, Foley was required to do more in former defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones' scheme than just get to the quarterback. There were times he had to drop into coverage and allow a teammate to blitz from a different point on the field.
While Foley's sack total suffered, he did secure a championship ring, being named the top Canadian in Toronto's 35-22 victory over Calgary in the 100th Grey Cup game at Rogers Centre in November 2012.
"I've taken something from that to where it's easy for me to drop into coverage and I don't question it, I just do it," Foley said. "I understand it and my football knowledge is much more vast for playing in that system.
"And I think Chris Jones (now Edmonton's head coach) learned from it because you look at his line in Edmonton and he's rushing four guys the whole game. The game is always changing and whether you're a coach or player, you're always learning and expanding your knowledge regarding what works."
Foley has been part of three Grey Cup-winning teams — '06 with B.C., '12 with Toronto and last year with Saskatchewan.
"It's weird because I used to have a career goal in mind to lead the league in sacks," Foley said. "I did that in '09, then I wanted to win championships every year so it's hard to say if this is going to be my best year.
"If I'm close to the (sack) total of '09, which I am, and we can get to the Cup, then yeah, I will consider it my best year for sure."