MONTREAL — It sounds like a cliche — and it is.
But you couldn’t help but get the sense here on Sunday that the 6-8 Montreal Alouettes mean it when they say they are not taking the 2-12 Winnipeg Blue Bombers lightly as the East Division rivals prepare to face each other at Stade Molson on Monday.
"(The Bombers) lost some close games and they found a way to come here and get a victory in Montreal. So I think bigger than their record is the fact they’re a divisional opponent and they beat us on our home turf and we have to come back and redeem ourselves," Als linebacker Khyries Hebert said Sunday at Olympic Stadium following his club’s light walk-through.
Winnipeg's first, last and only road win in 2013 campe at Stade Molson in Week 2 in a 19-11 victory, continuing a pattern that has seen Bombers teams perform unusually well the past couple of seasons in Montreal, where Winnipeg is 3-1 in their last 4 trips here.
But regardless of what happens here on Monday, Winnipeg’s visit this weekend will also serve as a reminder to Bombers’ fans of what might have been for their beleaguered team this season.
Als rookie safety Mike Edem has had a standout first season in Montreal and looks like the kind of non-import player who could have a very long and successful CFL career.
And that’s noteworthy in Winnipeg because Edem was the player current Bombers acting-GM Kyle Walters wanted to select in the 2013 CFL Draft with Winnipeg’s second overall pick, only to be overruled by former GM Joe Mack, who insisted the Bombers draft defensive lineman Andy Mulumba instead.
Mulumba, alas, has yet to see the inside of the Perimiter Highway and on Sunday was platooning at linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, while Edem — who the Als selected with the third overall pick — has played in every game for Montreal this season, recording five sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
"Yeah, there was some speculation right before the draft that I was supposed to go to Winnipeg," the Nigerian-born but Canadian-raised Edem said Sunday. "And my teammate (from the University of Calgary) Anthony Woodson was playing in Winnipeg at the time, so we talked about me maybe coming to the Bombers.
"But God’s plans are best, right? I’m here in Montreal now, I like the situation I’m in, I love my team and we’re just trying to get into the playoffs and get to the show."
Meanwhile, another current Alouettes player who might have been a Bomber in 2013 — former Winnipeg backup QB Alex Brink — had some interesting things to say about the organization that cut him last winter.
Brink, who spent most of this season out of pro football but was a late-season pick-up by the Als and is currently on Montreal's practice roster, said Sunday that he was blind-sided by the Bombers decision to cut him after three seasons in Winnipeg.
"I didn’t see it coming," said Brink. "My last conversations with Tim (Burke) and Joe Mack and Coach (Gary) Crowton had been that I would be back in camp. And I was getting ready to go to (Winnipeg's) mini-camp in a week and a half or two weeks or whatever it was.
"So yeah, that surprised me just because of what I was told... As a person you never want to be told one thing face-to-face and then have them go the other way. So it’s more on a personal level than anything else. But as I said, I don’t wish any ill will towards my old teammates or my friends by any means."
Brink sent out a Tweet earlier this season when the Bombers were in a free fall, writing: "I’m guessing this isn’t what Tim Burke meant when he told me the #Bombers wanted to go a different direction..."
Just joking, said Brink. Sort of.
"You guys now me, it was more tongue in cheek than anything," Brink said. "But yeah, on a personal level it was frustrating."