Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–10–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue say bye for a while

It's time to take mind off troubles and hurt off muscles

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Brandon Stewart should have been in Seattle by now, soaking in the comfort of home and the smell of the coast while the Bombers are on break.

Only one little problem -- one the cornerback didn't notice until after he landed in Vancouver for Monday's tilt against the B.C. Lions. "I forgot my passport in Winnipeg," Stewart said at the airport Tuesday while some of his teammates laughed around the luggage carousel. "I was like, well, I guess I won't be crossing that border. Guess I'll go back to Winnipeg and hang out."

Hey, that's not so bad in itself. After falling 27-20 to the Lions to sit at a frustrating 1-5 on the season, the Bombers could use a spot of relaxation. Time to rest aching muscles and take the mind away from the field, which so far has been so unkind. "I'm going to do a bunch of nothing," Stewart laughed. "No responsibilities, just sleep and eat. I might not come out of my apartment for a couple of days."

He's not the only one. Some players, including quarterback Justin Goltz, didn't return to Winnipeg Tuesday, bound for vacation spots or just for distant American homes and a rare chance to see family in the middle of the season.

Kick returner Aaron Woods is staying put on the Prairies. His plan for the bye week is to study the playbook and "heal the body."

He probably could use it after taking a monster hit the first play of Monday's game. It was delivered by Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian, a ruthless hitter who just happens to be Woods' off-season roommate at their training spot in Hawaii.

"I'm probably going to hear about that all off-season," Woods said with a wry grin. As for the game, between the killer hit and the fumble it forced, "it definitely did not start off the way I wanted it to." But he felt better about wrapping it up with 111 yards on five kick returns, a solid improvement over his Week 5 debut.

While the Bombers' muscles need a break, their minds do, too. Coach Tim Burke's wife is in Winnipeg and his son is coming soon, so he's planning quality family time before the coaching staff gets back together days before practice fires up again. Hopefully, they'll feel freshly creative then. "If you never take any time off, you don't get your batteries recharged," he said. "I think you come up with more ideas when you get away from it."

In past years, the Bombers have been miffed by a few players returning late from the bye. This time, Burke laid down the law. "(I told them) that they'd be fined pretty severely," he said.

Though the bye is prime time to find ways to improve the team, defensive back Jovon Johnson is using it to help up-and-coming players build their game. On Friday, Johnson will host a skills camp at Alexander Ross Park for football players ages nine to 18, teaching them how to explode into their runs, switch directions at speed and hone other techniques.

The rest of the time? Maybe a little bit of working out with the guys who are staying in town, maybe having some teammates over for a barbecue. "Try to build some more unity and get to know each other more," he said. Johnson remembers the 2011 season, when the players hung out together and the team went to the Grey Cup. This season, he said, there's a lot of new faces and guys are "kinda doing their own thing."

Johnson says he's got some grilling skills to help with the bonding. "When you're around each other hanging out, it rubs off on the field," he said. "Hopefully that will help us."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 7, 2013 D3

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