The Canadian Football League’s labour strife casts a mighty big shadow for Mike O’Shea and his plans for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
But, just like all of his counterparts across the CFL map, O’Shea will proceed with business as usual with the opening of rookie camp Wednesday – and then cross his fingers the two sides can get to work on hammering out a new collective-bargaining agreement when they resume negotiations in Toronto at the same time.
"First of all, we’re not allowed to comment on it. That’s my first answer," said O’Shea today when asked about the contract talks. "We’re prepared to coach."
The Bombers hope to have 45 players, including quarterbacks, on the field for rookie camp, which runs through Friday. But the current CBA also expires on Friday and what happens after that currently remains a mystery for both sides. Asked if that uncertainty is something he would take into consideration as a coach, O’Shea said:
"No. Not at all. The players that are going to be here want to play. They want to work. Everybody loves football. We’ve tried to assemble a group of good character guys that love to play the game."
The Bombers also announced today that University of Manitoba quarterback Jordan Yantz will participate in rookie camp and, presumably, main camp if there isn’t a labour stoppage. The 24-year-old Yantz was a Canada West all-star last season, finishing first in the conference in passing (fourth in CIS) with 2,474 yards and led the country with 25 touchdown passes.
Yantz will join veteran QBs Drew Willy and Max Hall as well as Brian Brohm, who spent last year on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats injured list, and rookie Robert Marve.
The camp will also feature four members of the Winnipeg Rifles in receiver Kurt Goodrich, defensive end Spencer Riche, offensive lineman Braiden Watson and fullback Tariq LaChance.