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TORONTO — The Saskatchewan Roughriders are anything but leaders in the CFL’s West Division standings and that has spawned discussion about leaders of a different sort.

“We don’t have that one leader to really yell and scream to get us hyped,? Riders running back Hugh Charles told reporters after Friday’s 45-35 loss to the visiting Calgary Stampeders. “We have (Barrin Simpson), the minister, who does his fair share, but we need more guys to be that leader and to get us motivated.?

Charles has been sidelined with an undisclosed injury since making that statement, so he hasn’t been available to the media to expand on his comments. It has been left to the members of the Riders on the active roster to respond to another hypothesis concerning the team’s struggles as the Green and White prepares for Thursday’s game against the Toronto Argonauts at the Rogers Centre.

“We’re losing,? Riders defensive captain Lance Frazier said when asked about players being motivated before games. “The guys aren’t as confident right now and you can see that. They are pressing more and you can see that as well. We’re just not winning football games. It’s affecting us as individuals, as a group, and we have to find a way to win a game.?

Teams can often turn to their captains for motivation and direction in tough times. Frazier, Mike McCullough (special teams captain) and Gene Makowsky (offensive captain) are veterans who are well-respected by each of their teammates and were therefore elected captains, but they aren’t the personality types to deliver an emotional speech that would ignite their teammates.

Makowsky, for one, feels pre-game speeches are overrated.

“What happens between the white lines is what really matters,? Makowsky said. “If it was up to speeches then you would have guys who just do that, but they wouldn’t know how to play football. It’s up to each individual to prepare the way they need to.?

Other than Simpson, there doesn’t appear to be any emotional leaders on the Riders. That could be a result of the releases and retirements of veterans such as Omarr Morgan, Jeremy O’Day, Chris Szarka and Marcus Adams during the off-season.

The Riders are still without slotback Andy Fantuz and wide receiver Rob Bagg, who were key contributors on and off the field in 2010. Fantuz is trying out for the NFL’s Chicago Bears, while Bagg is still recovering from two off-season surgeries on his left knee.

No one has stepped forward to fill their voids as players or as leaders, which may contribute to the Riders’ struggles in 2011.

“It’s one thing to talk about it. It’s another thing to get it done,? said Simpson. “We don’t need guys stepping up as mouthpieces. We need them stepping up with their pads and getting it done. That’s what we really need.?

Basically, the Riders have reached a point where talk no longer works. They have to show leadership through their actions.

“We’ve said everything that we can say,? Frazier said. “We’re tired of talking about it because it’s becoming repetitive. When you’re one-and-six there aren’t too many guys making plays. To be a leader, you have to be a playmaker and you have to show the way to get it done. We do have some guys who are making plays, but are they doing it enough to be vocal leaders? I wouldn’t think so. The guys aren’t down on one another. We’re just searching for answers.?

Both teams are looking for answers. The Riders, Argonauts and B.C. Lions are all tied for the league’s worst record. No matter what happens, one of the aforementioned three teams will make the playoffs.

“Or two,? said Riders head coach Greg Marshall. “These games are important, but we’re not thinking that far down the season. We’re just looking it as an opportunity to win a game before our bye week to take away some of the bad taste that it’s everyone’s mouth. Hopefully we can use it as a springboard for the rest of the season.?

Regina Leader-Post

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