NO truth to the rumour that over the past couple of seasons Jade Etienne's position with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has been listed as Whipping Boy.
But the 2011 draft pick, selected fourth overall, has been slow to morph into the kind of solid Canadian receiver the Bombers had hoped when they grabbed him ahead of Nate Coehoorn (Edmonton) and Marco Iannuzzi (B.C.), both of whom have already made impacts with their clubs.
Well, an update from those in the know -- Etienne is having a solid camp and, with the injuries to Terrence Edwards and Cory Watson, has been taking a lot of turns with the No. 1 offensive unit.
"He's looking really well," said Bombers head coach Tim Burke. "He looks like a totally different guy. He's a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger and he's got a lot more confidence. He knows what he's doing.
"Last year I think the reason he didn't get in more is he just didn't know the offence well enough and we might have asked too much of him -- when you're a backup you are expected to know a lot of positions. This year he's most focused on one position and that helps. He's really doing well. We're very happy with him.
"You can see his teammates are really pulling for him because in the past he's been kind of an underdog."
NO SHANKS, PLEASE: Finding a reliable and potential star to handle the kick-return duties is nearly impossible during training camp. It's the kind of job that really can only be truly evaluated when the lights come on for a game. Even then...
"The problem with that is in preseason games is every team has their 12th-team punter in and sometimes they shank it out of bounds and you never see a return," said Burke. "Hopefully we get a chance to see them return the ball."
First up as punt-return candidates on Wednesday for the Bombers will be Jameze Massey and Trevor Kennedy.
BATTLE STATIONS: Burke said he'll be watching a couple of battles on the offensive line, in the secondary and at weak-side linebacker on Wednesday. He also said that outside of Alex Hall and Kenny Mainor, most of the team's defensive-end prospects have been about the same and that "hopefully they start sorting themselves out."
Burke is thrilled with the work of his defensive tackles, Bryant Turner and JT Gilmore. Gilmore, in particular, continues to improve after making a position change after college.
"JT has matured as a player. He's got great ability, good size and strength," Burke said.
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