REGINA SASK.: JULY 3, 2009 -- BC Lions' Ryan Phillips centre runs back a interception for a TD against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during CFL action from Mosaic Field in Regina on July 3, 2009. (Roy Antal/Regina Leader Post) (NEWS)
Ryan Phillipsapproaches every game like it’s the Grey Cup. But you’ll have to excuse him if he’s a little extra jacked to visit Regina and his old pal Darian Durant this Saturday. In 19 regular season games against the Riders QB, Phillips has notched ten interceptions- 21 percent of his career total- with two of those going for touchdowns. That does not include the 2008 West Division Semi-Final where Phillips picked off Durant twice, with the final one going to the house to seal a 33-12 win over the then-defending Grey Cup champs. Since then, it has developed into quite the friendly rivalry between two CFL veterans, and at one point, Durant would try to avoid Phillips at all costs during warm ups, knowing that a simple acknowledgement could be a bad omen against the Lions stout safety.
“It’s always fun,” Phillips said after Wednesday’s practice in Surrey. “He bought into it, which is cool so a couple times he didn’t come out from the locker room or he would come out real early so I wouldn’t see him. It was all fun. We both understand what’s at stake and we respect each other as men and as professionals.”
As Phillips closes in on Larry Crawford’s franchise record for receptions- RP is four behind Crawford with 47 in his twelve-year career- he can also focus on rediscovering his mastery of Durant in the first of three meetings in 2016 this weekend. Durant missed all but one game last year due to an Achilles injury suffered in week one, and prior to that did not throw an interception to Phillips since the 2012 season.
Despite seemingly saving his best work for the Riders pivot, Phillips admits there isn’t anything different about preparing for these types of games. “Honestly, I don’t think it’s anything with Darian,” Phillips said. When we play a team like Saskatchewan, it’s a big thing as far as momentum, home field advantage and other things that are very big implications in where we want to be and where we want to go.”
This time around, it is no different. The crowd will be hostile. Despite their 0-2 record, there is a sense the Roughriders are entering a new chapter with GM/head coach Chris Jones running the show, along with the construction of New Mosaic Stadium just across the street from the old, historic venue that is in its final season.
A victory and a 3-1 record heading into bye week is the priority, but if Phillips can cause some havoc four number four in green, it would certainly be icing on the cake. The challenge of facing elite quarterbacks is one of the many things that have kept him going in his 12th year in the den.
“He exemplifies what it is to be a professional and a leader. He’s a winning quarterback, a guy who has won the Grey Cup. He’s also a guy that can do everything. The big play is always a possibility.”