Roughriders linebacker CJ Reavis is ready to tackle the new season with a new number


Reavis hopes to be able to build on his successful season from last year with the Green-Whites.

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CJ Reavis is ready to be number one this year.

Not only has the Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker changed his jersey number from No. 22 to No. 1, but the 28-year-old will also enter the 2024 CFL season as the starting strongside linebacker after earning that spot late last year.

“I think last year is last year,” Reavis said this week after training camp at Mosaic Stadium. “I think this is a new year; a new season.”

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“I’m ready to show what I can do this year too.”

Although Reavis started at SAM's linebacker in the first two games of the 2023 season, he was still viewed as a backup to Derrick Moncrief, who missed the first part of the season due to injury.

But as the season progressed, Reavis showed his playmaking ability – evidenced by 59 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception in 17 games – which led to him starting at strongside linebacker in the final stages of most games.

This offseason, after Moncrief was released by the club, Reavis signed a two-year contract extension to stay with the club through 2025, which was a vote of confidence for the third-year CFL player.

“Just more focused,” the 6-foot-4, 195-pound player said of his mindset for 2024. “More concentrated, I think.”

“I'm simply more in a leadership role than last year. It's a good challenge for me that I'm happy to accept.”

After stints in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons, Reavis joined the CFL in 2022 when he signed with Saskatchewan.

In his first season with the team, the Virginia native – who wore number 33 at the time – recorded four special teams tackles in four games before suffering a torn Achilles tendon on October 29 of that season.

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He returned to the field in 2023 and had a standout season for the Green-Whites – wearing number 22 – before deciding to switch to number 1 this season, which he wore while studying at Marshall University.

In addition to his larger leadership role, Reavis is looking forward to working in a new defensive scheme under head coach Corey Mace, who also serves as defensive coordinator.

“He trusts our abilities and I think the most important thing for us is just to have confidence, and he trusts us too,” Reavis said.

“He has the ability to get the ball,” Mace said. “From a coverage perspective, he has great blitzing skills.”

“And then we know that he is also good at tackling. So he has all the prerequisites to be a really good player.”

One of the players learning from Reavis and hoping to make the team after Saturday's roster reduction is American rookie Antoine Brooks Jr., who was used as a strongside linebacker and defensive halfback in training camp.

The 26-year-old is in his first CFL training camp after signing with the Riders in the offseason following two years in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers – who drafted him in 2020 – and the Los Angeles Rams – with whom he won a Super Bowl as a member of the practice squad in 2021.

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“It was a blessing to play in the NFL,” Brooks Jr. said. “I enjoyed my time.

“If they called me back, I would go back. If not, then I don't. Right now I just want to play football and play as hard as I can.”

After recording a tackle as a linebacker in Saskatchewan's first preseason game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Brooks Jr. made his breakthrough Saturday against the Elks, recording seven defensive tackles, two special teams tackles and an interception returned for a touchdown from the boundary halfback position in the preseason game.

“Brooks hasn’t done many reps at boundary half all camp and we let him start there to see what he looked like and he rose to the challenge,” Mace said.

“He's a damn good ball player, man.”

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