Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Slumping Roughriders trying to get back to basics

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BRETT SWAIN returned to his childhood happy place during the Saskatchewan Roughriders' bye week.

The rookie CFL receiver spent a few days wandering around Disneyland with his wife Mary, in addition to relaxing at his off-season home near the beach in San Diego.

"We went on a lot of rides and had a lot of fun," Swain said with a big grin. "I love the rides, I love the roller coasters ... I know (Disneyland) is mostly meant for kids, but it was good to just be there and be around all of that fun stuff."

Riderville has been anything but the happiest place on Earth the past few weeks as the Riders have suffered two straight losses and have been outscored 74-28 over that span. Their 1-2 record has the defending Grey Cup champions in last place in the competitive West Division standings.

The Riders will host another scuffling team today, the Toronto Argonauts (1-3), who have also endured back-to-back losses since they dismantled the Riders 48-15 in Week 2.

"Whether it's going well or going not so well, it's always good to take a break and get your mind off of things and then you come back and refocus," said Swain, who bounced between three NFL teams before signing with the Riders last winter.

"I've been on both ends of the stick where I go into the break with a losing record and with a winning record and there really is no difference. (The bye week) is just a good time to reset. We still have a long 14 weeks ahead of us."

Refreshed and rejuvenated have been popular words used by the Roughriders during practice this week at Mosaic Stadium. Players stopped short at calling the mini two-game losing streak a slump. Rather, they feel the time away from the turf allowed them to take a look at the simpler aspects of the game -- the fundamentals.

"When you start to lose and you don't know where to look first, a lot of it comes down to just playing football," said Swain, who was held without a catch in the Week 3 loss to the B.C. Lions. "Take a look at what you do on an every-day basis -- catching the football, carrying the football, throwing the ball, making tackles. It's like when a (baseball) hitter goes into a slump. The first thing you want to do is slow things down, sit back on the ball and take it to right field. Just keep it simple."

Fellow receiver Taj Smith agreed with Swain's take, and added the team's recent woes come down to poor execution.

"It's a team thing as far as the players go," said Smith, who leads the Riders with 11 catches, 169 receiving yards and two touchdowns. "We put ourselves in some binds as far as penalties, dropped passes and missed tackles. Once we clean that up, I feel that the sky is the limit for us.

"Execution has been the biggest thing. Being fundamentally sound as a team is what we need to focus on."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 26, 2014 C2

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