SASKATOON , Sask. — Brett Lauther’s training camp with the Saskatchewan Roughriders is unlike any other in his nomadic CFL career.
This year’s camp marks the first time Lauther is secure in his position as a team’s primary placekicker.
“It’s a little weird because this is the first one where there aren’t at least four or five other guys,” Lauther said. “I do like it because I get my work in and I’m ready to go right now.”
Lauther’s position at the 2019 training camp is one he earned through perseverance.
He began his CFL career with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who selected him in the seventh round (53rd overall) of the 2013 CFL draft out of St. Mary’s University.
Lauther appeared in four games that season, connecting on six of 10 field-goal attempts. However, the Tiger-Cats signed veteran Justin Medlock prior to the 2014 season, leading Lauther to a season-long stint on the practice roster.
He was released after that season, sparking a nomadic tour of the CFL in an attempt to land a starting job. He had tryouts with the Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos and two other look-sees with the Riders before landing a full-time gig with the Green and White in 2018.
That training camp started with Lauther handling the placekicking duties while incumbent Tyler Crapigna was on the injured list.
Crapigna returned for the latter part of training camp and his final field goal as a Roughrider was a 51-yarder in a 39-12 pre-season loss to the Calgary Stampeders.
The Riders later revealed that Crapigna was being shut down while facing season-ending hip surgery on his kicking leg.
In two-plus seasons with the Riders, Crapigna connected on 86.4 per cent of his field-goal attempts. Lauther had a 90-per-cent success rate in his first season with Saskatchewan.
The Riders showed their confidence in Lauther on Feb. 15 when it was announced that he had signed a one-year contract extension, carrying through 2020.
The Green and White went all in with Lauther on May 6 by releasing Crapigna, who later signed with the Argonauts.
“I was surprised because it was late and I thought he would be coming to camp,” said Lauther, 28. “It was one of those things and best of luck to him in Toronto.”
Lauther is dealing with other changes this season, including the addition of Regina’s Jon Ryan. Ryan punted in the NFL for 12 seasons — two with the Green Bay Packers and 10 with the Seattle Seahawks.
Ryan’s signing led to the release of Josh Bartel, who was the Riders’ punter for four of the five previous seasons as well as being the holder on placements.
“(Josh) is a good buddy, but it’s part of the business,” Lauther said. “He can take any kind of joke and I texted him a couple days later that it was the first time he got released and that I got to stay. We had a laugh at that.”
The Riders’ confidence in Lauther is founded upon the 2018 season, when he connected on 54 of 60 field-goal attempts (despite missing his first regular-season attempt).
He led the league in scoring (198 points) and hit four of five field-goal attempts from beyond 50 yards, including a league-best 56-yarder.
Head coach Craig Dickenson, who doubles as the Riders’ special-teams co-ordinator, feels that Lauther’s performance was also a product of the players on the kicking unit. Last year, it was Bartel holding with Jorgen Hus snapping.
Ryan will hold this year with the reliable Hus once again looking after the long-snapping.
“Brett has a great holder next to him and a great snapper snapping the ball,” Dickenson said. “I expect him to be right around 90 per cent this year or even a little higher.”
Lauther doesn’t feel extra pressure given Dickenson’s high expectations.
“My goal is definitely to be 90 per cent or above,” Lauther said. “We’re out there kicking at a lot of different distances than other teams are, so you’re going to have a higher probability of misses.
“My goal remains the same — go one-for-one and do what the team asks of me.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019