Once again, Ricky Foley is chasing a hometown Grey Cup.
The eight-year veteran defensive end is preparing for his first season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders some five months before Regina hosts the 2013 CFL championship game. Foley is very familiar with the challenges associated with winning the trophy at home, accomplishing the feat last year with the Toronto Argonauts.
Toronto became the second straight CFL team to win the title as the host city after B.C. did so in 2011.
The historic 100th Grey Cup was also special for Foley because family members from nearby Courtice, Ont., were on hand at Rogers Centre. He was named the game's top Canadian.
"It's really tough to beat because it was the 100th Grey Cup, there won't be another 100th Grey Cup, it was in my hometown with the hometown team and my family and friends were all there," Foley said Monday from the Riders' camp in Saskatoon. "And while I'm not looking in the past and this is a new chapter, the best thing I could do is add to it and win the Cup here.
"That would be on par, for sure."
Riders GM Brendan Taman has been busy this off-season, adding free agents Foley, linebacker Renauld Williams, defensive back Dwight Anderson and most recently defensive lineman John Chick. Taman has also acquired kicker Brody McKnight and hired former Hamilton coach George Cortez as offensive co-ordinator.
But Taman's biggest move was landing slotback Geroy Simon from B.C. The 14-year veteran, already the league's all-time receiving yards leader, needs just 29 catches to break Ben Cahoon's career mark of 1,017.
Hamstring issues limited Simon, 37, to just 54 catches for 700 yards and two TDs last season, the first time in 10 years he didn't crack the 1,000-yard plateau. A healthy Simon would certainly complement a solid receiving corps led by veteran slotback Weston Dressler, who had career highs of 94 catches, 1,206 yards and 13 TDs in 2012.
But Foley, currently nursing an injured right oblique muscle, says talk now about Saskatchewan winning the Grey Cup is just that -- talk.
"There's definitely a sense of excitement around here with all the additions that have been made," Foley said. "As a veteran, I know you don't win the Grey Cup on paper and every team made moves in the off-season to put themselves in a position to win it.
"But I think it's known around the league what this team has done, the guys they've brought in and what they're trying to do and they're making that push for the hometown Cup."
Saskatchewan finished third in the West Division last season with an 8-10 record before dropping a 36-30 decision to Calgary in the conference semifinal. Defensively, the Riders were second overall in fewest points and yards allowed before the off-season addition of veterans Foley, Chick, Williams and Anderson.
The six-foot-three, 258-pound Foley is chasing a third Grey Cup, earning his first with B.C. in 2006. Foley had a career-best 12 sacks with the Lions in '09 when he was named the CFL's top Canadian.
Over three seasons in Toronto, Foley recorded a combined 10 sacks. Last year, he had 35 tackles and three sacks before adding four tackles and a sack in the Grey Cup.
But in Toronto defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones's scheme, Foley did more than just rush the passer. He was also required to sometimes drop back into pass coverage like an outside linebacker.
"It ended up working and we won the Grey Cup so you can't argue with what we were asked to do," Foley said. "But at times it got frustrating because you felt you weren't playing as well at linebacker as you were at defensive end.
"I'm coming here to do what I do best and that's get after the quarterback and be on the line of scrimmage. That's not to say I won't be dropping back into coverage if it's the gameplan for that week because there will be wrinkles in like that. But I think it's going to be significantly different to what I did last year."
Another difference, too, is the rabid support the Riders receive in Saskatchewan. The franchise averaged more than 32,000 fans per game last year, second only to Edmonton (34,378) while Toronto's attendance was under 24,000 per game, second-worst in the CFL.
"Argos fans are diehard fans, I think they're on the same level as diehard Regina fans and can compete with them," Foley said. "The thing here, though, is there are so many diehard fans. I mean, we're in Saskatoon and the stands are almost full for every practice ... it has a real NFL feel to it.
"To Saskatchewan, this is the NFL whereas in Toronto the people there continue to search for the biggest, best thing. You look at the Blue Jays, they did a great marketing job, they had great off-season signings and there was a lot of hype and big crowds out there and now they're not doing so well and it falls off and it's on to the next hottest thing, whatever is in town."