Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue veterans' turn to shine

Time to show they're better than young guns nipping at heels

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The challengers made their case last week. The veterans plan to respond tonight.

Outside of filling holes at the receiver and centre positions, what little drama there's been at Blue Bombers training camp has been isolated at the defensive back and punter positions, where holdovers from the 2011 season have seen their employment come into doubt.


Those players have seen new faces -- such as cornerback Demond Washington and punter Eric Wilbur -- put in solid bids for jobs this month, underlined by excellent efforts in the exhibition win in Montreal last Thursday, but there's still one more opportunity for the regulars to prove their worth.

According to the Bombers who have had targets on their backs this camp, there's no added pressure coming into the final pre-season contest against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Canad Inns Stadium (7 p.m., CJOB, TSN).

"I just have to keep working hard. That's all any of us can do at this point. No sense in worrying about things or watching other guys; you just have to keep working," offered Deon Beasley, whose backup defensive back position Washington has threatened.

"I've been in the league a little bit, so maybe that will help me. Demond has been real good at camp, but so have all of the other guys. Competition is what we needed. We don't want to be the same, we want to be better."

That Washington has made an impression shouldn't come as a shock. Bombers management laid out a plan this off-season to bring some competition to the secondary this camp, and the Auburn product has provided just that. He put together a nice film reel in Montreal, effectively returning kickoffs on special teams and defending the pass when his number came up on defence (he had one interception and five tackles).

"It's been pretty competitive, which is what we all expected," said Johnny Sears, another depth DB who's felt the heat from Washington's play. "We feel the pressure just being at the position, the pressure to make plays as a defensive player, but this was different.

"The plan worked; it brought out the best in everyone this camp, I think."

Washington -- the man everyone will be watching again -- tried to keep things in perspective at the walkthrough Tuesday. He knew he'd have to make a big splash to get noticed in the Blue ocean of talented and dynamic defensive backs, but wasn't keen on discussing what he had planned for an encore against Hamilton.

"The DB group here is phenomenal," he said. "I just came here and thought I would play my game and see what happens. That's really all I can do, just wait to see if I did enough to make the club."

Tonight's game is the final crack at impressing coaches, true, but a good showing doesn't necessarily mean a guy should start looking for a house in Winnipeg. If an individual takes another step forward against the Tabbies, it only buys him some confidence with the coaching staff and the club will keep a player around longer (on the reserve or the practice squad).

That said, while tonight isn't a 'make' proposition, it certainly can 'break' a player.

"Absolutely," head coach Paul LaPolice said when asked if a player could play himself off the team with a poor effort under the lights. "Or play yourself off of whether we keep you around or not."

Non-import punter Mike Renaud was in a great mood Tuesday, despite the knowledge he may need to out-kick Wilbur to remain on the roster. Wilbur, the import with the booming leg, has taken a slight edge in the competition, it appears, but whether he's done enough to make Renaud expendable remained a mystery. Renaud smiled when asked about the weight of tonight's game relative to his shoulders.

"The pressure is obviously there but I just try to drown it out and focus on doing what I can do," the three-year CFL vet said, seemingly at ease with how he's fared in camp. "I'm prepared, I've been through it all here.

"I'm going get the job done." Twitter: @wazoowazny

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 20, 2012 D3

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