The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have one key sales pitch they wish to deliver and then reinforce with the opening of the 2014 Canadian Football League season upon us:
Please forget the nightmare of 2013 and the doom and gloom of 2012.
And, trust them, from their perspective the slate has been wiped clean.
Still, some stains are really difficult to get out of the carpet. And these ‘Under New Management’ Bombers will have a lot of cynics and naysayers to win over beginning Thursday night at Investors Group Field against the Toronto Argonauts (7:30 p.m.; TSN/CJOB).
‘Win over’ being the key term here.
"We want to win. That’s the bottom line," said new head coach Mike O’Shea Wednesday after the team’s final walk-through practice. "We’re here to win, these guys are all here to win. Great effort is going to allow us to do that more often."
That’s been a common refrain from the new boss since training camp opened in late May. He doesn’t want this to be just about him or new starting quarterback Drew Willy. The big picture is about taking the first step in turning around a franchise that has done a whole lot of losing over the last two years, going a combined 9-27.
"Buying in is going to be very important for this team," said veteran tackle Glenn January. "We’ve got a lot of new pieces here from across the league. Up to this point everybody has really truly bought in and accepted what has been put in front of us. I’m excited to see what this group can do."
The Bombers will be facing an Argonaut squad that won all three against Winnipeg a year ago and is 7-1 in its last eight against their West Division rivals. Winnipeg’s revamped defence will feature two CFL rookies in the secondary in Bruce Johnson and Moe Leggett, with former Calgary Stampeder Chris Randle at one corner and Matt Bucknor at the other. Only Demond Washington returns from last year’s air defence.
The Argos, meanwhile, roll out future Hall of Famer Ricky Ray at quarterback.
"I hear about Ricky Ray every day, every day," said Leggett. "He’s a good quarterback, a veteran quarterback. I can’t wait for it. We’re just going to come out here and have some fun."