Offensive lineman Chris Best has retired from the rebuilding Saskatchewan Roughriders, leaving the CFL as a two-time Grey Cup winner and the last player remaining from Saskatchewan’s 2007 championship roster.
“It’s news to me; that’s incredible,” Best, 33, said when asked if he ever believed he would be the last 2007 Grey Cup winner to leave the Riders, having outlasted quarterback Darian Durant, who was traded last month to the Montreal Alouettes.
Durant and Best had also been the Riders’ last two-time Cup winners on Saskatchewan’s roster. Since winning the 2013 Grey Cup, the Roughriders have been undergoing intensive reworking under Chris Jones, who was hired 15 months ago as head coach, general manager and vice-president of football operations.
Jones hinted two weeks ago that Best would soon be announcing his retirement.
Another proven offensive lineman, Brendon LaBatte, missed most of 2016 because of neck and concussion issues. Jones said LaBatte’s playing status remains unresolved, so the Roughriders may yet be scrambling to assemble a patchwork offensive line after allowing 57 sacks last year, the eighth-highest total in the league, while compiling a 5-13 record.
Because of numerous injuries, including a double sports hernia and a torn labrum, Best never played for Jones. With his wife Emily and three-year-old daughter Libby beside him at a media conference Thursday, Best said looming surgeries and the subsequent rehabilitation convinced him to retire.
“Obviously in 2007 we had an incredible team, a ton of fun that year,”’ said Best. “We were a great team and there were a lot of parallels to 2013. We always had a great locker room, but on those teams the whole locker room would get together. We’d be out at night and see some DBs, so we’d go talk to the (defensive backs). Things that you don’t normally see in locker rooms. We’ve been so lucky, but in those two years in particular the whole team was like a family.”
Best was a first-round draft choice in 2005, having played collegiately at Duke and Waterloo while earning a degree in mechanical engineering that led to writing a masters thesis about fighting forest fires.
Best was also the last player on Saskatchewan’s roster remaining from the era of head coach Danny Barrett and general manager Roy Shivers, who comprised the team’s hierarchy from 2000-06. Eric Tillman, Ken Miller, Brendan Taman and Jones have since succeeded Shivers.