The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will return to the practice field this week with four new players, minus two familiar faces who have been dumped, and uncertain who might be their starting quarterback in the weekend’s Labour Day Classic.
And in the topsy-turvy world that has been their 2013 season, all that change is referred to as: ‘Wednesday.’
The Bombers added two new import receivers on Tuesday in Mike Sims-Walker and Aaron Kelly, along with quarterback Jason Boltus, kicker Brody McKnight. The two players released to make room were kicker Justin Palardy and receiver Isaac Anderson.
Meanwhile, quarterback Max Hall’s throwing hand is still swollen – although head coach Tim Burke said he was confident he could at least dress on Sunday – while Buck Pierce is to visit doctors on Wednesday regarding an undisclosed injury.
And there could be more changes coming as the Bombers, 1-7, try to pull out of a six-game losing streak and salvage something from this campaign.
"We’re looking at several positions," said Tim Burke. "Anybody that can upgrade or has potential to upgrade us, regardless of position."
Here’s some background on the new arrivals:
Mike Sims-Walker (6-2, 214, Central Florida), a former third-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was a star at Central Florida, pulling in 184 passes for 2,561 yards in 46 games while twice being named an All-Conference USA selection and also playing corner as a sophomore. In his senior season, he set the school record for receptions in a season with 90. Prior to the draft he was clocked with a 4.35 time in the 40, prompting the Jaguars to grab him 79th overall in the draft.
Unfortunately for Sims-Walker, he was injured in the final preseason game, but then returned to record 122 receptions for 1,648 yards and 14 touchdowns over the next three years. A free agent in 2011, Sims-Walker signed with the St. Louis Rams but was released in October, returning again to Jacksonville where he suffered another season-ending injury. He was released in December of 2011 and most recently was in a New York Jets mini-camp.
"This is another opportunity to play football. I missed the game," said Sims-Walker at a press conference Tuesday. "I thought about retiring, but I feel like I’ve got a lot of football left in me and I’m still young. I just like to play the game, it’s really not about money right now. I just want to make some plays and have fun."
Aaron Kelly (6-5, 195, Clemson) spent the last two seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, starting eight games in 2011, catching 27 passes for 383 yards and two touchdowns. He followed that up with 11 catches for 107 yards and a TD in six games last year but was released prior to camp this season. At Clemson, Kelly set the all-time ACC reception record with 232 catches and also set school records in receptions and touchdowns (20) as well as single-season records for receptions (88) and touchdowns (11) in 2007.-Jason Boltus (6-4, 225, Hartwick College) spent three years with the Ticats from 2009-2011, suiting up as the third-string quarterback in his final season and completing five of 15 passes for 48 yards. Last year he was with current Bomber offensive coordinator Marcel Bellefeuille with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League and also suited up for the Utah Blaze of the Arena Football League. Boltus played four seasons at Hartwick College and left the school as Division III’s all-time leader in total offence.
Brody McKnight (6-0, 204, Montana) is a Canadian punter/placekicker originally selected in the first round (8th overall) by the Montreal Alouettes in 2011 and has since spent time with the Als, the Edmonton Eskimos, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton.
As for those players released:
Isaac Anderson was in his second season with the team and caught 21 passes for 244 yards in seven games played but was released with the arrival of the two new receivers.
Justin Palardy connected on a solid 114 of 139 field goals (82 per cent) since arriving midway through 2011, but leg strength on long tries and kickoffs had come under criticism by the coaching staff.