BRADENTON, FLA. — Mike O’Shea offered some small, but perhaps revealing, glimpses here Sunday into what kind of head coach he intends to be during his first-ever practice as the new field boss of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Bombers' new rookie head coach individually greeted and shook the hands of each of the 50 or so players who turned out for Day 1 of the Bombers first-ever Florida minicamp here at the IMG Academy.
And then midway through practice — and with a hot sun beating down — O’Shea grabbed a tray of water bottles from the sidelines and took them out to players and coaches on the field.
Now, a head coach individually greeting players at the doorway prior to the start of practice is unusual, but not unprecedented. But a head coach carrying water out on to the field? That is very definitely a new one in the normally very stratified and regimented world of pro football.
Get used to it, O’Shea told reporters after the conclusion of the first of two, two-hour practices the team has scheduled here for Sunday.
"Listen, the deal is everybody’s in charge of everything," said O’Shea.
"Just because they put an ‘HC’ in front of my name doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be the one. If you take (former Argos head coach) Pinball (Clemons) as a mentor -- I’m here to serve them in whatever capacity they need.
"I think it’s important that everybody realizes that at any given time, they can choose to lead and do the right thing. We need everybody contributing in every way possible to make sure we’re going in the right direction."
And the personal greetings and handshakes prior to practice? O’Shea turned his answer into a joke, but Bombers staffers insisted it was a very calculated effort on the part of O’Shea to make a personal connection with each player down here.
"The real answer was I was just standing there holding the door open," O’Shea laughed. "And so I was standing there and I wanted to talk to the players so I started shaking their hands and talking to them."
The Bombers have a total of 55 players on their minicamp roster, a number which includes seven more players that were invited after the club held a tryout camp here Saturday morning. But some of the players won’t be arriving until tomorrow, including backup quarterback Brian Brohm, who got married on Saturday and won’t arrive until Monday.
And there were also a couple players sitting out with injuries sustained either before practice even started -- like wide receiver Braylon Bell, who was on the sidelines in street clothes for the whole session -- or who got hurt during practice -- like defensive back Gabe Loper, who went down in the first half-hour and never returned.
Overall, O’Shea said he liked what he saw Sunday morning in what was a decidedly up-tempo practice. "I think every guy at some point did something here that I thought, ‘That’s pretty good,’" said O’Shea. "There’s some talented players here. We’re pretty excited."
The majority of the players at Bombers mini-camp for the next three days are CFL rookies who will never be seen again -- an educated guess would be that just 20 or so of the players here will be invited to the team’s main training camp in Winnipeg in June.
But the exception to that is the team’s four quarterbacks, who -- with the exception of Brohm -- all reported for duty here Sunday morning.
That includes projected starter Drew Willy, who was crisp with his passes in his first practice since being acquired by the Bombers in February. "I thought we hit some good plays and for the first day, I thought it was good," said Willy.
The Bombers return to the practice field Sunday afternoon. The team will also hold two practice sessions on Monday and then one more Tuesday morning before breaking camp.