HE'S wearing a brace on his left knee, but Brandon Stewart will be back in the lineup with the Bombers tackle the B.C. Lions at Canad Inns Stadium Friday at 7 p.m.
The strong-side linebacker was hurt on a short-yardage play against Montreal in Week 2, when Alouettes receiver S.J. Green accidently rolled up on his left leg while trying to make a block. Stewart said the knee suffered a slight strain, meaning he will probably have to play with a brace.
"I can't wait to get back on the field. I'm excited," he said.
Excitement can only take a returning player so far, Stewart acknowledges. Missing five games will take some of the conditioning out of his legs and lungs, and the veteran knows that will be a big hurdle to overcome.
"Getting my wind and being precise with my assignments," he offered when asked what the biggest challenges will be for him against the Lions. "Watching film and being on the field are two different things. When you're watching film it's easy: 'Oh, I do this, I do that.'
"When it's coming on the field, it's a little more reaction."
Stewart's return not only puts the Bombers defence at full strength for the first time this season, it also allows Jonathan Hefney, who's coming off his best game as a linebacker against Hamilton, to slide back to his more familiar halfback spot in the secondary.
"I've been eager to get back all year," smiled Hefney, who's made no secret of where his playing preference is.
Hefney sat out Monday with a foot issue. The club says he'll be fine for Friday.
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NOT lost on the Bombers is the jump in weight class this week.
Winnipeg goes from playing one of the most inconsistent teams (Hamilton) to the defending Grey Cup champs when the Lions come to town. Head coach Paul LaPolice watched B.C.'s 24-5 win over Saskatchewan Sunday night and provided this quick and dirty review, starting with quarterback Travis Lulay:
"He creates plays when there's nothing there," the coach said. "Travis will scramble around and create first downs. Sooner or later, he has so many first downs, he's going to get Geroy (Simon) or Arland Bruce behind people.
"On defence, they're a veteran unit. They don't make many mistakes. This past game, they heated (Riders QB) Darian Durant, they played a lot more blitz and man (coverage) than we've seen... they can play what they want."
The offensive-minded LaPolice was short and sweet when asked if he looks forward to facing a defence that hasn't allowed a touchdown in three games.
"Absolutely," he said.
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HOW did Joey Elliott evaluate his 33-of-43 for 406 yard performance against the Tabbies last Thursday night?
"I would grade it out as a 'B'... we missed some plays," he said. "We left a lot of yards on the field."
The one concern coming from the coaching staff regarding Elliott's work against Hamilton, was the lack of points on the board -- a trend that's plagued the CFL's lowest-scoring offence all season. The Bombers crushed the Ticats 6-0 in turnovers, but only managed to score 32 points, with the winning touchdown coming at the end of the game.
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Import tailback Chad Simpson sat out Monday's practice to rest his injured foot, a regular occurrence to ensure he's ready to play on game days. Simpson has 54 carries and 315 yards in four games, with a 5.8 yards per carry average. The silver lining in Simpson's practice absence: Backup Will Ford gets plenty of reps in the offence.
The waiting on Canadian running back Carl Volny continues. The second-year back, who suffered a torn ACL last September, is dealing with a hamstring issue related to the knee injury. He looked close to returning last week, but according to the club, he won't be a full participant in practice until he's 100 per cent.