It has been six long years between playoff appearances for Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Kerry Joseph.
Joseph, who is preparing to make his CFL postseason debut in Sunday’s (3 p.m.) West Division semifinal against the host Calgary Stampeders, played in one NFL playoff game with the Seattle Seahawks. The Miami Dolphins upset the Seahawks 20-17 on Jan. 9, 2000, in Seattle. Joseph, who was a safety with the Seahawks, still remembers the atmosphere that makes the playoffs so different from the regular season.
"Every play, series and drive counts in the playoffs,’’ Joseph said after Tuesday’s practice at Mosaic Stadium. "In that game, the one play that we took off (Dolphins quarterback) Dan Marino beat us on. It cost us. Everything is more important when it comes to the playoffs.’’
Joseph was cut by Seattle in 2002. He then signed with the Ottawa Renegades where he spent three non-playoff seasons as a quarterback. He made his way to Regina after being the first selection in the spring dispersal draft of the defunct Renegades.
"It is a long time,’’ said Joseph. "I’m looking forward to playing at a different position. It’s going to be a lot of fun.’’
Joseph said he barely followed the CFL’s postseason while in Ottawa.
"I would just go home and get away from the game,’’ Joseph said. "I would then start thinking about the following year.’’
That is different this year. The Riders selected Joseph with the CFL’s post-season in mind. With the regular season concluded, Joseph is facing the same questions about the pressure that is on him to lead the Riders.
"For him it’s just another game where he has to protect the football and give us a chance to win,’’ said Tommy Condell, the Riders offensive co-ordinator. "Pressure is always defined by the individual. Football is fun. For the players this is what they dream about. They want to be on the stage where it means a lot.’’
Joseph’s first season with the Roughriders featured its challenges when he was slowed by an injury to his right knee. He finished the year with 22 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. He also completed 57.7 per cent of his passes for 3,489 yards, good enough for fourth in the CFL. He also rushed for 592 yards with the Riders after gaining 1,006 in 2005.
"I felt that I did some things well and there were things I didn’t do so well,’’ Joseph said. "It’s unfortunate that I had the injury, but there are things I can improve on next year. I still take what I learned during the season and will be able to use it in the playoffs.’’
The 2006 postseason finds Joseph in the unusual position of being a CFL playoff rookie at the age of 33. Danny Barrett, head coach of the Riders, said he hasn’t discussed playoff preparations with Joseph.
"We’ll deal with that as the week goes on,’’ Barrett said. "Now he’s really focusing on the game plan and trying to get that under his belt. He’s a vet and he understands what is at stake. I can see it in his eyes. As the week goes on, maybe I’ll have a conversation with him. I’ll play it by ear.’’
Joseph will continue to work through this week’s practice sessions to prepare for Sunday. He knows that opportunities like he has with the Roughriders don’t come along that often.
"I’m just going to play my game and try to take it to another level,’’ Joseph said. "This weekend is about doing what I do best and just have fun doing it.’’