The Blue Bombers haven’t won in Calgary in 11 years, but with so many new faces on the roster that fact – maybe happily – flew over some players heads as they prepare to fly into Cowtown for Saturday’s game against the Stampeders.
"What’s the curse?" pivot Max Hall said after practice at Investors Group Field today, and when he was told, joked that the roster turnover means that maybe all the cursed players are gone. Still, he knows it’s no easy feat for a basement-dwelling team to tackle the league’s top squad – and second-best pass rush, as well.
"It’s a road game, it’s their home, they’re a tough team," he said. "We have to battle it out."
At any rate, the Calgary curse didn’t weigh to heavily on the Bombers’ shoulders during the week, as head coach Tim Burke saw upbeat practices from his team. "Their spirits are high," he said. "They practiced hard this week, they had energy. I think they’re going to go out and play as hard as they can play. Hopefully they play as smart as they can, too."
On that end, the Bombers have quietly tweaked the offence to help Hall clean up his pass mistakes, such as the two interceptions he threw against the B.C. Lions last week. Offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille dropped a handful of plays that Hall, in his first year in the CFL, was struggling to adjust to.
The team also shifted how they work with Hall and the receivers, a subtle change from emphasizing getting a pass to certain players running specific routes. Now the focus with some plays is getting the pass to a certain spot in the field, and letting the receivers get to that spot how they may. It takes more trust between Hall and the receiving corps, Burke agreed, but it also puts more responsibility on the receivers.
"The receivers know, ‘I have to get to this spot in time,’" Burke said. "I don’t care how you get there. By hook or crook, get to that spot. You don’t have to run this perfect route."
With Demond Washington out with injury, defensive back Johnny Sears Jr. is definitely back in for Saturday’s game, just his second this season after being sidelined by injuries. Sitting on the sidelines "ate me up," he said, but he added he learned a lot from watching the season from that vantage. He will play at boundary cornerback, while Marty Markett plays at boundary halfback.
Meanwhile, the defensive squad will also feature any of four different personnel combinations, based on what Calgary is doing, Canadian ratio rules and skill sets. One will feature Jovon Johnson at safety, another will see Johnson at dimeback with Cauchy Muamba bringing up the rear, and yet another will feature Johnson out and Ian Wild in.