REGINA - For the first time since the 2008 season, Darian Durant will not lead the Saskatchewan Roughriders into the CFL playoffs.
Kerry Joseph will get the start at quarterback Sunday when the Saskatchewan Roughriders visit the Edmonton Eskimos in the West Division semifinal.
Head coach Corey Chamblin said Thursday Durant's surgically repaired right elbow isn't quite back to full strength, which is why he decided on Joseph as his starter.
"(Durant) is a step away from being the starter, definitely," Chamblin said. "Whether he's two or three (on the depth chart), that hasn't been determined.
"I still think he's about a week away from him being back to 100 per cent old Darian."
Durant missed eight regular-season games after having surgery on a torn tendon in his right elbow in early September. The Riders went 2-6 in Durant's absence after starting the year by posting an 8-2 record through the first 10 games of the season.
Joseph had started the previous three regular season contests for the Riders, two of which were against the Eskimos. Joseph's most recent start was a week ago at home against Edmonton, a game the Riders won 24-17. It was the lone victory for Saskatchewan in Joseph's three starts.
The 41-year-old Joseph ended his retirement in mid-October and signed with the Riders. He last played for Saskatchewan in '07 when he piloted the team to a Grey Cup championship. Chamblin said that veteran experience goes a long way at this time of the year.
"He has the experience as far as championships and things like that," Chamblin said. "We knew that we could possibly count on him if it got to this."
Durant was the third-string quarterback for the Riders in the '07 season. Joseph was traded to the Toronto Argonauts the following year and Durant eventually became the full-time starter under centre. Joseph and Durant are close friends and the two regularly share ideas and strategy at practice and in the film room.
Joseph said he loves having that veteran presence beside him.
"It's good. I didn't play a lot of football this year so sitting in the meeting rooms, when we get a look on film … for instance, (Wednesday) morning Darian was telling me, 'Think about this here. There's something that you can do within this offence.' That's just a little reminder that I didn't get during training camp or in Week 3 or Week 4 that he gives me.
"It's very good to have a guy who has been in that battle and been in a war that you can communicate with.''
The players said the offence doesn't miss a beat with Joseph starting. They're confident they can successfully defend their Grey Cup title with Joseph as the starter.
"It really doesn't (change)," all-star receiver Rob Bagg said when asked what changes are made to the offence when it comes to deciding on the starting quarterback. "We as an offence will follow whoever is under centre until the very end of the game. We have a tremendous amount of respect and, obviously, trust in both of those guys."
Durant is expected to dress for the game, but Chamblin wasn't keen on using him in special situations.
"We won't do packages or things like that," he said. "Hopefully Kerry is able to finish the game. He'll start the game, he'll finish the game. That's the way we would like to do it unless we have a healthy lead."
Chamblin said it's a luxury having a veteran like Joseph with playoff experience who can step in and take over when the season is on the line.
"I'm pretty confident," he said. "(Durant) is getting healthy but, to have Kerry, he's a veteran also, so now I have two veterans. I didn't really have two veterans going into the season, where now I have two veteran quarterbacks who both have Grey Cup experience and Grey Cup wins, so we're probably a little bit stronger in that area than we were when we started the season.''
The Eskimos will also be without their starting quarterback for Sunday's game, with Matt Nichols starting ahead of Mike Reilly.
Reilly, a West Division all-star, suffered an unspecified injury in a game Nov. 1.