The continuing makeover of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has cost Will Ford — an East Division All-Star last year — his job.
The Bombers announced the release of the veteran running back Monday morning. The move isn’t altogether that surprising, considering Nic Grigsby has been impressive in his first three CFL starts and Paris Cotton, another newcomer, dressed last week as one of the team’s kick returners.
"Nic Grigsby has done a pretty darn good job and Paris Cotton is healthy again," explained Bomber head coach Mike O’Shea. "It’s just unfortunate for Will that training camp (when he hurt his hamstring) set him back. He’s been working hard the last few weeks we’ve been practising, but we’re not going to make that change, taking Nic Grigsby out. So, he wasn’t going to get the opportunity to really show us. It’s unfortunate because he’s a fast, talented football player, people recognized that last year and he did some good things here last year."
Just last season Ford was not only the club’s nominee for the special teams player of the year award after scoring twice on kick returns, he was also an East All-Star after rushing 113 times for 594 yards. He was re-signed this winter after testing free agency, but seemed to have a sense even then he was going to be in a fight to retain his job.
"It’s always up for grabs, I know that," Ford said last February. "There’s always somebody next in line. That’s just life. All you can do is buckle up, go out and do your part and be the best you can be.
"I’m always going to be optimistic about it. But I’ll say this: I refuse to just sit back and let somebody take something like this from me. I’m going to give 120 per cent every day at camp. I’m here to work. I love playing football, whether it’s on the practice field or in a game. It’s what I love to do. So, I’m not just going to give this away, I promise you that."
Said Ford Monday via his Twitter account (Will Ford@_GODSWILL2886_):
"Much Love And Respect To My Winnipeg Family #TilWeMeetAgain"
Ford was injured during training camp, opening the door for both Grigsby and Cotton to step up and stake a claim to his gig. Grigsby is currently second in the CFL in rushing with 218 yards.
"The interesting thing is out of training camp (Grigsby) was the last man standing," O’Shea said. "And I would say ‘barely’, because he was nicked up coming out of training camp. What I really appreciated right then and there was there was a couple days where it was iffy whether he could practice and he gutted it out to allow us to keep practising. And then he got healthy, he started producing and he’s finding his groove now. He’s done a great job for us, not just running the ball, but in pass protection and the way he catches the ball out of the backfield. And he seems to be having fun doing it."
New Blue blood: The Bombers made official Monday morning the additions of receiver Taveon Rogers and quarterback Mason Mills, both Americans, to their practice roster.
Mills (6-0, 195, San Diego) left San Diego last season as the school’s all-time leading passer with 11,099 yards. A four-year starter at USD, he led the school to an 8-3 record in 2013 and threw for 35 touchdowns against only five interceptions. He was named Player of the Year in the Pioneer Football League this past season.
Rogers (5-11, 200, New Mexico State) made his signing with the Bombers public via his Twitter account on the weekend. He spent the past two season with Cincinnati of the NFL and had a solid career with the Aggies where he served as both a receiver and kick returner. In his senior season, he finished with 59 receptions for 1,048 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Bombers are back on the practice field Monday morning in preparation for Thursday’s clash of the unbeaten, with the Edmonton Eskimos — also 3-0 — at Investors Group Field.
Injury watch: WR Aaron Kelly did not practice on Monday and his status for Thursday’s game is unknown. He has been battling a knee injury and visited the doctor on Monday for an assessment. Veteran Romby Bryant was working with the No. 1 offence in his place… DB/LB Teague Sherman also did not practice. O’Shea said he was just ‘sore, beat up,’ but is expected to be available for the Eskimo game.