By DARRELL DAVIS
L-P Sports Writer
Quarterback Reggie Slack has been reading defences.
Particularly the Saskatchewan Roughriders' defence.
"All right, I'll say it: We've got to do a better job of stopping the run," Slack, the Roughriders' quarterback, said Tuesday from Toronto.
"It may come from guys we already have, it may come from other players. But there's no question that if we get guys who play inside the way they're supposed to against the run, we'll be better."
Slack had planned to spend the CFL offseason in Saskatchewan, promoting the football team and praising its rebuilding steps.
Instead he has been watching from afar, silently praising the free-agent additions of linebacker Willie Pless and cornerback Doug Craft, while relishing the thought of returning with an almost unchanged offence under former co-ordinator Cal Murphy, who replaced Jim Daley as the team's head coach.
In December, Slack returned home to Florida to attend his mother's funeral. He subsequently began shuttling between visits with his family, who stayed home in Milton, Fla., and his agent, Dan Lawson, in Toronto.
Unlike last season, Slack isn't meeting with Lawson to discuss re-working his contract; in 1998 the 'Riders gave him a new three-year pact worth about $125,000 annually. Slack plans to return to Regina in late May, prepared for the opening of training camp June 12 in Saskatoon.
"I needed to start looking for things after football," said Slack, a six-year CFL veteran who turns 31 Sunday. "I'm not going to play forever, so Dan has been helping me get started with some business ventures.
"Let me say that I'm very pleased with my contract. I'm happy playing in Regina, I appreciate the fans and I'm happy with the way Al (Ford, Saskatchewan's GM) has treated me. I look forward to working with Cal -- I respect him and I think we'll get back the focus that this team needs."
Despite enduring Saskatchewan's miserable 5-13 record in 1998, caused mainly by its defensive woes, Slack is coming off a career year. He started 16 games, completed 287 of 463 passes for 3,721 yards with 19 touchdowns and 16 interceptions and is entrenched as the No. 1 quarterback.
He wants the team to get better, so he has been disappointed when free agents such as linebacker Mike O'Shea, defensive end Joe Montford, defensive tackle Doug Petersen and receiver Terry Vaughn snubbed Saskatchewan's contract offers.
"It's discouraging because you win with talent," Slack said. "You feel a responsibility as a player to make your team a place where people want to play, a place like Calgary or Hamilton, where there's almost always a chance to win.
"As a player you want guys outside your organization to be envious. You want to be among the top echelon of places to play. Even one year ago, when we were coming off a Grey Cup appearance, we had a substandard record. We want to be a team that's 12-6, 13-5, a team that people want to join.
"That's my goal."
Four weeks ago Slack underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Four years ago his left knee was injected with an artificial lubricant, but Slack said the recent problems began during the '98 season.
"I couldn't walk on it," Slack said. "I've been putting off getting something done.
"It was basically a cleaning out. The big problem was a 'fat pad' that everyone has on the inside of their knee. Mine had become folded under the joint, so Dr. Wayne Marshall (the same surgeon who lubricated the knee in '95) unfolded it and shaved it down. It was very minor surgery, as minor as you can get. I was running on it 10 days later."
Slack has been diligent in his offseason workouts, trying to get together with Toronto-based teammates Larry McSeed and John Terry. Slack has also planned to train with Toronto Argonauts tailback Mike (Pinball) Clemons, but has found Pinball to be just as elusive and frenetic in the offseason.
"I'm sick of working out," Slack said. "I want to play."
From pages B3 of The Leader-Post, Wednesday, April 28, 1999