MONTREAL — Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice had a message for his team as they landed here this afternoon in advance of their first pre-season game of 2012, Thursday night at Stade Molson against the Montreal Alouettes.
"I want them to compete at a high level, be excited and when you get an opportunity to make a play, make a play," LaPolice told reporters today. "If they want to be somebody who's going to stay with us, you've got to start standing out from everybody else."
With many of the Bombers veteran starters still back in Winnipeg, Thursday night will be LaPolice's first opportunity to see many of his rookies in game action, while also getting his first look at a revamped Montreal squad that has new offensive and defensive coordinators this season.
The Als new defensive coordinator is former Bombers head coach Jeff Reinebold but LaPolice said he's not expecting Reinebold to do a full unveiling of his 2012 defence tomorrow night. "You might see some of their base stuff," said LaPolice, "but certainly I don't think a lot of teams put a lot of value in that first pre-season game of anybody's."
Among the rookies looking to stand out on Thursday evening will be wide receiver Chris Matthews, who is attempting to win the vacant fifth starting receiver job during this camp.
"I feel like I've been doing a good job, but I feel like I can do better too," said Matthews, an imposing 6-foot-5, 220-pound pass catcher out of Kentucky. "I don't know (if he can win a job on Thursday). I'm just going to work as hard as I can and play as hard as I can..."
Also on the bubble Thursday night will be QB Justin Goltz. Goltz had success in the very limited game action he saw in 2011, but is fourth on the depth chart at QB right now behind starter Buck Pierce and backups Joey Elliott and Alex Brink.
LaPolice said Brink will start tomorrow night and will be relieved by Elliott. Goltz will get into the game sometime after that and he said he knows he needs to make the most of his opportunity if he's going to beat out either Brink or Elliott for a spot on the roster as a backup. Goltz was cut coming out of training camp last year, but soon afterward rejoined the squad after Elliott suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 3.
"It's a chance for me to continue to build on a resume. I'm a young player and I feel like I've done well in this league with the chances that I've had," said Goltz, who got into a game in Toronto last September after both Pierce and Brink got hurt and promptly threw an 18-yard touchdown strike to Clarence Denmark.
"Whatever comes, comes. But tomorrow is the one small chance that I have control over. And I'm going to go make the most of it."