WINNIPEG Blue Bombers defensive lineman Jason Vega was saying all the right things Thursday as he returned to the practice field for the first time since sitting out as a healthy scratch for last Sunday's Bombers loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina.
Vega will start in this Sunday's Banjo Bowl at Investors Group Field after the man who replaced him in the Bombers lineup last game -- Kashawn Fraser -- got injured during Sunday's game.
Vega was in the NFL last season and was expected to be a central part of the Bombers defence in 2014. The decision to bench him last week raised some eyebrows and there was a lot of anticipation about what his reaction to being a healthy scratch was going to be.
But if Vega is bitter about it, he wasn't letting on with reporters on Thursday. Asked how he reacted to last week's sit-down, Vega was matter of fact. "I watched the game on my couch, tweeted about it live and connected with the fans and enjoyed it...
"I took it like I was watching another game. It was good -- I was supporting my guys."
Vega also sat out a Bombers win over Montreal a week earlier with an injury and head coach Mike O'Shea said last week that he didn't want to mess with a winning formula heading into Regina so he was sticking with Fraser.
Vega was asked if it's all that simple. "If he says it is, I'm sure it is. I take coach for what he says and he seems to be a pretty straightforward guy. That's what he told me so I'm sure it is."
- BOMBERS starting QB Drew Willy pronounced himself fit and ready to go for the Banjo Bowl after practicing on Thursday for the first time since injuring his ankle in in Regina last Sunday.
"I feel okay. I'm definitely looking forward to being out there and playing in front of our great crowd. It's obviously a huge game for us and we're looking forward to it," Willy told reporters after practice at Investors Group Field.
"I'll be out there and ready to go."
Willy was asked if his lukewarm self-assessment of feeling "okay" is expected to improve as the week goes on.
"I think I'll only get better. It will just keep progressing. Every single day, I've been getting treatment. I felt pretty good out here today."
Willy was injured during his team's loss to the Riders but did return to finish the game.
- WILLY'S return to the practice field was about the only good news on the injury front for the Bombers:
-- Injured linebacker/long-snapper Ian Wild didn't practice Thursday. And while O'Shea repeated that he's hopeful Wild might still play at IGF against the Riders this Sunday, he had special teamer Carl Fitzgerald working on his long-snapping during practice;
-- Slotback Nick Moore (high ankle sprain) didn't practice and O'Shea agreed that his estimate to reporters on Wednesday that Moore could be out "a couple weeks" was a best case scenario and Moore could in fact be much longer than that. Romby Bryant took first-team reps in place of Moore on Thursday;
-- Offensive linemen Patrick Neufeld and Matthias Goossen, who both sat out last Sunday with injuries, are still hurt and won't play again this week, said O'Shea. The first-team O-line at practice on Thursday was the same as the Bombers used in Regina -- right tackle Cordarro Howard, right guard Jarvis Jones, centre Steve Morley, left guard Chris Greaves and left tackle Glenn January;
-- Defensive end Thaddeus Gibson, who the Bombers acquired in a trade with Toronto this week, hasn't yet joined the Bombers in Winnipeg. O'Shea explained Gibson had a trip planned for what is a bye week for the Argos this week and was told he could go ahead and take it as he wasn't going to play this week anyway.
- IN OTHER Bombers news on Thursday, former Winnipeg wide receiver Chris Matthews -- the 2012 CFL rookie of the year -- was cut from the practice roster of the Seattle Seahawks. Matthews has workouts planned for this week with two other NFL teams.
The Bombers are in talks with Matthews and would love to have him back in Blue and Gold, but the Ottawa Redblacks are also expected to be aggressive bidders if Matthews is unable to land another NFL gig.
- IN NEWS out of Regina on Thursday, Riders punter Josh Bartel and long snapper Levi Steinhauer will both miss the Banjo Bowl with injuries. Chris Milo is expected to handle both punting and field goals, but there's talk of also activating former Bombers kicker Justin Palardy from the Riders practice roster to handle kickoffs and provide some insurance.
Also expected to be out for the Riders this week is DB Mark LeGree. That's good news for Willy -- three of LeGree's four team-leading interceptions this year have come off Willy.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @PaulWiecek