Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea has yet another question mark in his starting lineup heading into his team’s next game this Friday in Montreal versus the Alouettes.
Bombers wide receiver Aaron Kelly — whose 163 yards in receptions this season puts him second in the CFL behind only Toronto’s Chad Owens — came up lame at Investors Group Field Wednesday morning during the Bombers final full practice before travelling to Montreal on Thursday.
O’Shea explained Kelly injured his knee during practice earlier this week, but showed no ill effects during practice on Tuesday. The knee swelled on Wednesday, however, and Kelly left practice early after receiving treatment and did not return.
Winnipeg native Brett Carter took most of the first-team reps in place of Kelly.
Despite the setback, O’Shea said Kelly insisted to him that he’s fine and Kelly is expected to travel with the team to Montreal tomorrow. "He’s assured me he’s going to be fine," said O’Shea. "I expect him to play in Montreal."
Even if Kelly does play, O’Shea said Carter will see the first CFL action of his career in Montreal. The 21-year-old former member of the Winnipeg Rifles has practiced all week on special teams and will finally get to see some action this week.
While Carter has dressed for two games previously — one last season and another last week — he has never actually played before.
"It’s an exciting time for him," said O’Shea.
You can say that again. "I’m very happy about finally getting some game action," said Carter.
O’Shea said he’s also made a couple of other roster decisions for Friday: offensive lineman Cordaro Howard will get the start at left guard in place of the injured Chris Greaves; and ailing defensive lineman Zach Anderson (heel) will get the week off.
Still to be determined, however, is whether starting safety Maurice Leggett (ankle) will play in Montreal, O’Shea said.
Leggett did not practice on Wednesday and was only a part-time participant on Tuesday. On Tuesday, Winnipeg native Donovan Alexander took most of the first-team reps at safety, while on Wednesday Johnny Sears got most of the first-team action at safety.
With the Bombers committing this week to playing an import in Howard in place of a non-import in Greaves, they are going to need to fill another starting position in Montreal with a Canadian. If Carter were to slot in for the import Kelly, that would solve the problem, as would Alexander playing in place of the import Leggett.
But if Kelly plays and Sears takes over for Leggett Friday night, O’Shea would need to look elsewhere to fill his non-import ratio. The head coach didn’t seem to know yet himself what that might exactly look like.
Asked Wednesday afternoon if he had his starting roster picture any clearer, O’Shea shook his head. "Not yet. I thought I would, but no — still cloudy."