With the 2011 CFL season set to start June 30, teams were required to pare their rosters today to get to the 46-man limit. With 77 players on the roster, Rider head coach Greg Marshall (pictured) and his staff doubtlessly faced some tough decisions. Although, like other teams, the Riders did do a bit of creative accounting through various procedural moves to keep a few players around who showed promise in training camp but who weren’t able to crack the final roster.

Still recovering from a knee-injury suffered last season, placekicker Luca Congi will start 2011 on the nine-game injured list. He’ll be joined by receiver Rob Bagg who re-injured a knee he was rehabbing in May and is likely done for the season. Other Riders placed on the nine-game list include receiver Aaron Fairooz (hamstring), defensive back Leron Mitchell (still recovering from a broken leg suffered in the 2010 Grey Cup) and defensive end Brent Hawkins (who likely faces surgery to repair a banged up left shoulder).

Prominent among the cuts were quarterback Chris Leak, who had been battling with Ryan Dinwiddie and Cole Bergquist for the back-up and third-string spots behind starting QB Darian Durant. Veteran long-snapper Jocelyn Frenette was also released (to add some youth to the aging O-Line rookie centre Alex Krausnick-Groh and 2010 draft pick Pat Neufeld were kept instead), along with linebackers Byron Bullock and Chris Graham who both saw action on defense and special teams in the pre-season. Other cuts by the Riders included #1 draft-pick running back Kyle Exume, and receivers Patrick Brown (who scored a 50-yard touchdown in the Riders’ June 17 pre-season game against the Eskimos) and Dominic Bolden. Receivers Terrence Nunn and Ernie Wheelwright, who both impressed in training camp, made the roster, as did Jordan Sisco. 

If none of the cuts are picked up by other teams, I believe the option exists of some of them being added to the Riders’ practice roster. Other players who are still in the mix include non-imports Obed Cetoute (receiver) and Nick Hutchins (offensive line), running back Brandon West (who impressed fans in the pre-season) and defensive back Chris McKenzie (who started 14 games for the Riders in 2010). The first three are listed as injured, while McKenzie is on the inactive list.

After going 0-3 on field goal attempts in the pre-season, rookie placekicker Chris Milo figured to be in tough. But he survived the cuts, as did punter Eddie Johnson. In a Leader-Post on-line report Rider GM Brendan Taman said Luca Congi could be ready even before  his stint on the nine-game injured list is over. Given the Riders’ abysmal performance on field goals in the two pre-season game, fans will be waiting with baited breath for his return. And at some point you have to figure inconsistency at placekicker could cost the Riders a W.

For Rider fans, the most noteworthy cut in the rest of the league occured when the Edmonton Eskimos released popular defensive lineman Marcus “Chunky” Adams whom the Riders had let go this spring.

The Riders open the 2011 CFL regular season at home against the Edmonton Eskimos on July 3 (Mosaic Stadium, 5 p.m.) We’ll have pre- and post-game coverage on the blog, so check back. And if you have any thoughts on today’s cuts, feel free to post a comment.