History will be made at Investors Group Field Thursday night with the rebirth of another Ottawa franchise in the Canadian Football League.
What the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are hoping to avoid is being a big chunk of that history by being added to the record books as the team falls to the Redblacks for their first win.
The Bombers, 1-0 after last week’s impressive win over the Toronto Argonauts, face the Redblacks — who had the bye last week — in a contest that will be intriguing in that both teams are still somewhat wrapped in mystery. All that said, the Ottawa roster — which features veteran quarterback Henry Burris and former Bombers Jovon Johnson and James Green — actually has more experience than that of the one here in Winnipeg.
"They’ve got a quarterback who passed for 50,000 (yards) and ran for 5,000," said Bomber head coach Mike O’Shea. "He was right up there for MVP of the league last year. I don’t look at them as expansion team, that’s what they’re labelled. They’re a professional football team, they’re going to be well coached and they’ve got players who are hungry.
"They’ve been sitting around practising for a long time. These guys want to play so they’ve got that extra time where they’ve just not been able to do their job. It’s got to be frustrating for them. So they want to get out here. Our players have to realize they’re going to come out flying and they’re going to want to hit something other than themselves."
The Bombers will be without defensive tackle Bryant Turner, Jr. who went home to Mobile, Ala., last weekend for the birth of his child. O’Shea told him to take as much time as he needed before coming back to Winnipeg. The other roster change sees Julian Feoli-Gudino starting in place of the injured Cory Watson.
Winnipeg will be looking for a repeat performance from a squad that rolled over the Argos and was led by quarterback Drew Willy, named on Tuesday as the CFL’s Offensive Player of the Week.
"You can always improve," said Willy. "Looking at the film, there’s things we definitely can improve on. Even myself, just a few reads here and there that I need to get better on, but overall, it was definitely a good team win. Points each week can go a different way, but any time we can get over 40 points in a game it’s going to increase your chances of winning."
Without any real Redblacks game film to study other than exhibition games, the Bombers also dove deeper into the video archives to study the tendencies of their head coach Rick Campbell and offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson and defensive boss Mark Nelson — both former assistants here in Winnipeg.
"It’s definitely a little tougher this week," said Willy. "We went through the preseason stuff and then you look at co-ordinators’ pasts and where the head coach has been and try to get some tendencies here and there, but they could come out with something completely different. Really, you just play what your eyes see and react to what their defence does and try to get some tendencies early on in the game and go through our reads. We’ve seen so many crazy looks in training camp with our defence, I think it will prepare us for any team we happen to play this year.
"Every guy on our team is definitely prepared and ready to go. We’re not looking past anyone. Every week is going to be a challenge. We know any team can win in this league on any given week. Every single one of our guys is focused on Ottawa and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow."
O’Shea was asked if last week’s win helps in developing a swagger, a notion he cut off quickly.
"You don’t. Not here," he said. "We’re too young right now. We’ve got to develop our work habits. We’ve got to develop positive, concrete habits… not just fluff and attitude. There’s things you can build on and there’s things that magically float around in the air. We’re trying to build something here."