Long after Redblacks’ head coach Paul LaPolice blew the whistle to end practice on Wednesday afternoon, receiver R.J. Harris stayed out on the field working with starting quarterback, Caleb Evans.
For the first time in 2022, Harris worked his way back onto the field in week five against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It was in a much different role than in 2021, and he was only targeted twice. He caught both of those passes for 30 yards, but even with little production, he was happy to be back on the field.
“It felt really good just to get out there,” Harris said. “We wish the results were different, and it sucks that what happened, happened. We’re going to commit the rest of the season to do it for Jeremiah Masoli. As others have said, we’re just going to carry ourselves the way he would.”
There’s no hiding the story of Masoli and his injury for anyone right now. It is at the top of everyone’s mind, and who can blame them. They have lost their starting quarterback, and their golden goose from free agency. Now, Evans is going to be forced to step up and help lead the Redblacks to some wins (at least in week six).
Despite the general lack of experience for Evans at the age of 23, Harris, who has been working with the young pivot since the middle of last season, has confidence that he can shoulder the load.
“Caleb Evans brings another year of experience,” Harris said. “He has that escapability where he can create plays with his legs, and he’s confident this year, that comes with a year already under your belt. We’re just excited to get out there and make plays for him, he’s going to put the ball in the right places, and it’s our job as receivers and running backs to go make those plays.”
While Harris has been working with every quarterback on the roster, his journey back to the first team required him to get to know Masoli, a player he had never worked with before. With Evans under centre, however, that chemistry has already been built, and the two know what to expect from one another when the chips are down and they need to make something happen.
“It just builds confidence,” Harris admitted. “Having that trust with someone that you have played with like Jaelon Acklin and Masoli, we were able to see that connection right away. It’s just part of football and everybody is trying to get up to the same speed with Evans.”
Even still, long after practice was over, it was Shaq Johnson, Harris, and Evans putting in the extra work to ensure that the connection stays sharp. Those extra reps are part of the reason that he is back with the starters this week, and Harris is hoping that they can help get his team into the endzone a little bit more.
“It’s really important,” Harris said, referencing the extra reps he has been putting in with Evans. “On this team, everyone has a role. Roles change, as you saw with my role so far this year. I went from being a starter last year, to being a backup, and I’m just trying to make sure that I’m getting the best look possible. That was my role when I was running with the twos, and now it just so happens that we have worked our way up to be with the ones. It’s all about playing your role to the best of your ability to make the entire team better.”
The Masoli injury has certainly changed things around the team, and it has the whole country talking, but Harris says that there’s one thing left unchanged; the locker room.
“The locker room has been doing the same thing we do every week,” Harris said. “Our goal is to go 1-0, we’re not worried about the past, and we’re not worried about the future. All we are worried about is Saturday and making sure we get a win.”
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