JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Canadian Nathan Rourke will begin his NFL career on the Jacksonville Jaguars' practice roster.
According to a source, the Victoria native cleared NFL waivers Wednesday and will join the Jaguars' practice roster. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity as Jacksonville hadn't formally announced the move.
The Jaguars waived Rourke on Monday despite the six-foot-two, 209-pound Rourke having a stellar pre-season with the club, completing 23-of-35 passes for 348 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in three appearances. On Saturday in the club's final exhibition game against the Miami Dolphins, Rourke entered the game in the third quarter and engineered a 10-play, 88-yard TD march.
Had another NFL team claimed Rourke, the CFL's top Canadian last season with the B.C. Lions, it would've had to put him on its 53-man roster. By clearing waivers, Rourke became a free agent and could've signed a practice-squad agreement with any NFL squad.
Despite Rourke's impressive play with Jacksonville, head coach Doug Pederson said there was no battle for the backup job. Pederson added veteran C.J. Beathard was the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Trevor Lawrence.
Rourke signed a three-year deal with Jacksonville after completing the '22 CFL season with B.C. He appeared in 10 regular-season games — he missed eight contests with a Lisfranc sprain in his right foot that required surgery — completing 255-of-324 passes (league-high 78.7 per cent) for 3,349 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Rourke also ran for 304 yards and seven TDs and was named the CFL's top Canadian player.
Rourke played collegiately at Ohio University and was taken in the second round, No. 15 overall, in the 2020 CFL draft by B.C. After being bypassed in the '21 NFL draft, Rourke then signed with the Lions.
Rourke served as veteran Michael Reilly's backup as a rookie but received plenty of first-team practice reps as Reilly nursed a season-long elbow ailment. Rourke started two games as a rookie before taking the CFL by storm in 2022.
He threw for more than 300 yards six times (including three 400-yard performances) in staking B.C. to an 8-1 record before suffering the Lisfranc sprain. The Lisfranc joint on the top of the foot is where bones, ligaments and tendons come together.
Rourke returned for B.C.'s regular-season finale as the Lions (12-6) finished second in the West. He led the club past Calgary 30-16 in the division semifinal, completing 22-of-30 passes for 321 yard and two TDs.
B.C.'s season ended with a 28-20 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the West final. Rourke finished 20-of-37 passes for 300 yards with a TD and two interceptions while rushing twice for 20 yards.
Also on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Rams added tight end Nikola Kalinic to their practice roster after releasing him Tuesday. The six-foot-four, 253-pound Toronto native began his pro career with the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2019, 2021) before joining the Indianapolis Colts. He was waived May 4 before signing with the Rams on July 14.
The Rams are also reportedly finalizing contract details with American kicker Brett Maher, a former CFL player with Ottawa and Hamilton who was let go by the Denver Broncos. Maher played for the Dallas Cowboys last year but missed four straight converts in the NFC wild-card game against Tampa Bay, becoming the first player in league history to miss that many.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 30, 2023.
The Canadian Press