Tenacious D

JIM BENDER, HOME TURF

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

Last week, it was pointed out that Saskatchewan was No. 1 in the CFL against the run.

"They're No. 1 against the run; they're No. 1 in a lot of things," Winnipeg head coach Doug Berry responded.

At the time, the Roughriders led in 13 of the 25 defensive categories that the CFL tracks. This week, they are leading in seven and second in seven. And thanks to that surprisingly ferocious defence, Saskatchewan is also second with a plus-11 in the turnover category.

"Turnovers have been the red meat for that Doberman," Berry said.

And lead dog of that pack of Dobermans once again is import defensive end Fred Perry. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Southern Arkansas product was Saskatchewan's nominee as Most Outstanding Defensive Player last season, thanks to his 14 quarterback sacks (second in the CFL). He lost that bid to B.C.'s Brent Johnson, the overall winner in that category.

"Fred's a great football player, a really, really good person, and he's a great teammate to his teammates," said Saskatchewan head coach Kent Austin.

"He understands what it means to be accountable to his teammates, and he understands how to communicate that accountability back. So, he teaches that to the younger guys. Because of the way he prepares, his work ethic, how he plays the football game and how he practises during the week, he leads by example."

Blue Bombers offensive tackle Alexandre Gauthier faced Perry as a member of the Calgary Stampeders the past two years.

"He's doing great," said Gauthier. "Two years ago, he had a breakout year and he's been getting better every game. He's probably either the most dominant end or in the top two in the CFL."

Two years ago, Perry recorded 11 sacks, the most of his CFL career to that point. So, he has obviously found a home in Regina. Perry has sacked six QBs to the halfway point of the current campaign.

"It's definitely working out for me," Perry agreed in a recent telephone interview. "Now, I'm just having fun. I want to be in the Grey Cup, that's all those stats mean to me. But once you're having fun, you block everything else out. There ain't no secret, I'm just having fun."

Of course, playing on a winning squad adds to that pleasure.

"It feels great," said Perry, whose Roughies are now a league-leading 7-2 after beating the Bombers 31-26 in the Labour Day Classic. "Now, everybody's gunning for us and that's what I like -- instead of us gunning for them. The fans are happy, the staff is happy."

But that defence that lost such stars as defensive backs Davin Bush (Winnipeg) and Omarr Morgan (Edmonton) to free agency, revolves around Perry -- who according to Bomber offensive tackle Dan Goodspeed, has a motor that just won't quit.

"We had J.J. (defensive back James Johnson) here last year and they taught him well before they left," said Perry, 32. "And we've still got (DB) Eddie Davis.

Eddie's a great player and it's easier to fill shoes like that when you've got guys who have been here so long."

Saskatchewan also sports a solid linebacking crew anchored by middle linebacker Maurice Lloyd and veteran Reggie Hunt. Veteran defensive tackle Scott Schultz is still a force inside.

"Our defence is based on speed," Perry said. "Our defensive has high expectations. We set goals every week and we started that at the beginning of the season against Montreal.

"But we're not just a defensive team. Our offence is clicking with (quarterback) Kerry Joseph) and our special teams are clicking, too."

And to think that Perry almost became a Blue Bomber. When Calgary released Perry in 2004, Winnipeg GM Brendan Taman brought him to town.

But he failed his physical and landed in Saskatchewan a short spell later.

"When I got traded to Calgary (from Ottawa in 2004), I was just coming off knee surgery," Perry recalled.

"Then, I practised on the turf in Calgary and my knee was swelling. By the time, they (Stampeders) released me, the swelling had gone down.

"When I went to Winnipeg, the doctor told me my knee still wasn't right.

"Then, I came here and they said my knee was fine. I played and everything was fine. It's still a big, ol' puzzle."

Perry, who played for both Edmonton and Toronto previously, officially signed with Saskatchewan as a free agent in March 2005.


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