The Saskatchewan Roughriders will be without one of their leaders this week, after the CFL suspended defensive lineman Pete Robertson for a headbutt during the Labour Day Classic.
Late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Robertson was called for a major foul for unnecessary roughness after headbutting opposing quarterback Zach Collaros in the helmet.
The league announced Robertson's one-game suspension in a news release Monday.
"I told [the league] I wasn't going to make excuses or explanations about the situation. That's just the play that happened," Robertson told reporters after practice Wednesday.
"My biggest thing was that I put my team in that situation at that moment. It was a crucial time."
Winnipeg was down 20-17 when they put a drive together late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game. With just over four minutes left in regulation, it was second-and-goal for the Bombers when Collaros threw an incomplete pass to the end zone.
The sold-out crowd at Mosaic Stadium cheered, thinking Winnipeg would either have to settle for a field goal to tie the game, or gamble for a touchdown on third down.
But a referee had thrown a flag. Collaros was on the ground, looking shaken.
Robertson was called for a major foul for headbutting Collaros after the play. The Bombers were granted a new set of downs, then ran for a touchdown on the ensuing snap to take the lead.
"We're disappointed that [Robertson] got suspended, but we're more disappointed that he did what he did," Riders head coach Craig Dickenson told reporters Wednesday. He said he didn't see the incident when it occurred during the game, but has since seen the tape.
"That's something we don't approve of and we certainly don't want that to be part of the game — and not part of what we do either. We're very happy that Zach's OK and that he's playing [Saturday's] game. We want to apologize to him."
The CFL did not immediately respond to CBC News' request for more information about Robertson's suspension, such as how the league made its decision.
On Sunday, the Riders pulled together to overcome the setback.
They punted for a rouge on the next drive, cutting the deficit to 24-21. The defence contained the Bombers and quickly got the ball back for the offence, which drove downfield. Brett Lauther capped off the drive, kicking a game-tying field goal with 31 seconds left in regulation.
In overtime, the Riders scored a touchdown and made the two-point conversion. The Bombers answered with a passing touchdown on their first snap, but the Riders denied the two-point conversion to seal the win.
"For us to go out there, execute and make plays when we needed to make plays was huge for us, to come out and get the victory," said running back Jamal Morrow, who was instrumental down the stretch and finished the game with 113 total yards.
Roughriders running back Jamal Morrow says the team recognizes Robertson made a mistake during Sunday's game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. (Adam Bent/CBC)
Robertson said he apologized to his teammates earlier this week during a film session and is owning up to his punishment from the league.
"That's not his character," Morrow said.
"Sometimes you black out in certain situations — and you hate to see that happen. But we still love Pete."
Riders quarterback Jake Dolegala, who is now 2-0 as a starter this year, applauded Robertson's leadership Wednesday for how he has handled the situation, while still expressing disapproval of the headbutt.
Looking ahead to the rematch against Winnipeg this Saturday, Dolegala said it will be a "bummer" to have Robertson out of the lineup, but that he's confident in the teammates who will be getting opportunities to step up.