‘I’m ready for them’: Roughriders’ Malik Carney set to face former team

PHOTO BY KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive end Malik Carney runs a drill during practice at Mosaic Stadium on Wednesday, June 12, 2024 in Regina.

Taylor Shire

Regina Leader-Post

Malik Carney knew it was coming.

Following a practice at Mosaic Stadium this week, the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defensive end gathered in front of reporters ahead of the team’s Week 2 matchup, which happens to be against Carney’s former team — the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“I’ve been waiting on this question,” chuckled Carney. “It’s going to be exciting; a lot of emotion.

“I’m ready for them boys; I know they’re going to bring their best but we’re going to our best and it’s going to be a very physical battle (and) an intense game.”

Prior to signing with the Riders in free agency this off-season, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Carney played three seasons in Hamilton, where he racked up 81 tackles and 13 sacks in 41 games.

Now, he’s set to go against his former teammates for the first time this week as Saskatchewan faces Hamilton on Sunday (5 p.m., TSN).

“I’m familiar with those boys and their tendencies,” said Carney, 28. “Their characteristics; what they like to do.

“I’m sure it can help me in my favour and an advantage as far as just knowing who they are being with them for a number of years and going against them every day in practice.

“I’m sure they know what I’m bringing too.”

In Week 1 of the CFL season, the Riders picked up a 29-21 road victory in Edmonton to begin the season 1-0, while the Ti-Cats lost their opener 32-24 against the Calgary Stampeders.

Hamilton quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who was limited to six games last season, threw for 300 yards in the loss and rushed for a career-high 36 yards in the loss.

“He’s a dynamic guy,” Carney said of Mitchell. “He likes to take shots (down the field).

“Last game, he was a little more mobile so just getting him down, holding him down and collapsing the pocket on him and just getting him down as a unit.”

So, is Carney ready to stop him this week?

“Stop him? I’m getting ready to…,” Carney paused with a smirk. “We ain’t going to say too much.

“But yeah, I’m ready to stop him; we’re going to say that.”

Carney left Hamilton on good terms so there was no need to take extra shots in the lead up to this week’s game.

“Nah, never burn bridges like that,” said Carney. “My momma taught me well.

“But it was time for a new chapter and I know the author so I’m excited for this year.”

Carney is the only newcomer to Saskatchewan’s defensive line this year, alongside returnees including Micah Johnson, Anthony Lanier II and Bryan Cox Jr., who had a crucial strip-sack against the Elks in Week 1 to help secure the victory.

“He adds a lot,” Cox said of Carney. “He helps a lot with the younger guys just being an older presence in the room.

“He also is a baller so it helps a lot having another guy on the other side of me that can ball.”

And while he enjoyed his time in Hamilton, when the Riders hired former Toronto Argonauts defensive coordinator Corey Mace this off-season to be their new head coach, Carney took notice.

“Watched him a lot when he was up in Toronto as well as in Calgary,” Carney said of Mace. “Just seeing what he does with his d-line (and) how he calls his defences, I wanted to be part of it.

“It was an easy call for me.”

Mace, meanwhile, is more than happy to have a dynamic player like Carney on the roster.

“He’s a freak,” said Mace. “He can do anything we ask him to do … We’re really happy with the addition of him.

“He’s expecting a big year for himself and I think the rest of here can see that the potential is there for him to do that.

“And he’s going to put in the work to attain it.”

Defensive line helps out

Cox’s strip-sack in the fourth quarter of Saskatchewan’s Week 1 victory was a massive play that ultimately helped the Riders secure the win.

With 1:45 left in the game, Cox batted the ball away from Elks’ quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and then the Riders’ defensive end recovered the loose ball.

A few plays later, Riders’ quarterback Trevor Harris connected with receiver Shawn Bane Jr. for his third touchdown of the game to put the Riders up 29-21 with the convert.

“I was just doing my job,” said Cox. “Same thing every play, just trying to get to the quarterback when it’s a pass.

“That just happened to be my opportunity and I seized it so just happy to be able to help close it out for the team.”

For Cox, who was limited to eight games in his rookie season last year, he’s happy to be back on the field making an impact.

“I missed a lot of time last year so I feel like the fan base and everybody didn’t really get to see what I can do as a whole,” Cox. “Now it’s just coming back and proving what I can do.”

Player discipline

A few members of the Roughriders were slapped with fines from the CFL after what transpired in their Week 1 game in Edmonton.

Guard Logan Ferland was fined an undisclosed amount for striking Edmonton defensive back Leon O’Neal Jr. in the helmet. Ferland was given a 25-yard penalty on the play and was also ejected from the game.

Fellow offensive lineman Trevor Reid was also fined for delivering a tourist hit on Elks’ defensive lineman Noah Curtis.

Meanwhile, linebacker C.J. Reavis was fined for violating the CFL Code of Conduct while defensive back Rolan Milligan Jr. has been fined for delivering a high hit on Elks’ receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr.

Elks’ defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche has been fined for headbutting Riders’ centre Peter Godber.

Injury report

Despite not practicing on Day 1 and being limited on Day 2, linebacker Jameer Thurman (chest) appears on track to play this week against Hamilton. The same goes for right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick (ankle) who hasn’t fully practiced yet this week but was on the field for a portion of the individual drills on Thursday. Mace said both should be fine for Sunday.

Lineup changes

It appears Marcus Sayles could draw in at cornerback for Nelson Lokombo this week, while Lokombo could be moved to safety, replacing Jayden Dalke.

“(Lokombo) looks real good back there,” said Mace. “We wanted to take a look at what that looks like so he’s had the first two days and he looks pretty good.”