Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–6–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue scouting mission all business -- no beach

On Florida's Gulf coast for work, not waves

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SOMEWHERE on Florida's St. Pete Beach, a hotel's windows look out to where salt sprays leap and white sand gleams. It's a Winnipegger's winter dream.

But Kyle Walters, he's not there to catch the surf.

"Well, we can see the beach," the Blue Bombers GM said on Friday from that hotel, where he's been stationed since Tuesday. "I haven't actually been out there. We're either at football practice, or we're at the hotel with our doors closed. It's a work function."

So not a lot of rest or relaxation then for five Bombers football guys, in Florida this week to scout today's East-West Shrine Game. It's the longest-running college all-star game in the United States and a key event on the scouting calendar, as over 100 of the top NFL prospects gather to show off their stuff. Most of them will get a shot at making the NFL: More than 100 players from last year's game signed on with an NFL team.

'We thought it would be best for the entire scouting department, head coach and myself to be down here and have some productive meetings'

-- Bombers GM Kyle Walters

But those that can't stick in the big league, well, they'll be looking for a place to play.

"Realistically, these young men that we're looking at have the goal of getting to the NFL immediately," Walters said. "You can't blame 'em, that's their goal... but some of them may fall through the cracks. So as much as anything, you're creating your database for two years down the road. We'll just track and follow them."

On that note, things have changed in Bomberland since last year's Shrine game.

In previous years, the Bombers sent one or two scouts to the event. Now Walters is wearing the GM hat, and this time assistant GMs Danny McManus and Ted Goveia are with him. Head coach Mike O'Shea is also holed up in that St. Pete Beach hotel, and so is national scout Drew Morris. When they aren't at practice, they are comparing notes.

"In years past, it was more we'd just come down and watch some football," Walters said. "This time, we structured a whole series of meetings with multiple topics we want to discuss... We thought it would be best for the entire scouting department, head coach and myself to be down here and have some productive meetings."

At this stage in the scouting game, Walters said, his crew isn't yet focusing on specific positions or types of players. That will come later, once the Bombers have a better idea how their roster will shape up after CFL free agency opens on Feb. 15.

"Then we'll get a little target specific," Walters said. "We don't want to get too narrow a view right now."

After the East-West Shrine game wraps today, Walters and crew are moving on to Mobile, Ala., to scout the Senior Bowl, another main event on the scouting calendar.

And in case you were wondering if the new GM has had a chance to unwind from the whirlwind recent months, well, he hasn't really tried.

"I'm not really one to take a step back and reflect on things," he said. "I'm more kind of, 'it is what it is, this is the job at hand, we're moving forward.'

"It's a new regime, and we're doing things different. We are going to see the changes."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2014 C4

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