Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue want clean slate

Bombers eager to banish any memories of 2012, 2013

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The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have one key sales pitch they wish to deliver and then reinforce with the opening of the 2014 CFL regular season upon us:

Please forget the nightmare of 2013 and the doom and gloom of 2012.

And, trust them, from their perspective, the slate has been wiped clean.

Still, some stains are really difficult to get out of the carpet.

And these 'Under New Management' Bombers will have a lot of cynics and naysayers to win over beginning tonight at Investors Group Field against the Toronto Argonauts (7:30 p.m.; TSN/CJOB).

"Clean slate," said Bomber defensive tackle Bryant Turner Jr. "We've got a lot of great guys around here, a lot of great leaders.

"We're anxious to see what happens. We have a great feeling that some great things are going to happen. We just want to see how great. We wish we could have a time machine and fast forward to (Thursday) to 7:30 so we can go ahead and get started."

The game will mark the Bomber debut of new quarterback Drew Willy and head-coaching debut of Mike O'Shea as the two key components of the club's off-season makeover.

"I feel good," said Willy. "We've been preparing for this since the opening day of training camp. I'm putting everything I can into film work and just making sure my reads are correct. I definitely feel comfortable with the guys we're going out there with and I'm just looking forward to this experience."

Willy made four spot starts with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and filled in for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL when their starter, Tim Rattay, was injured. But this opportunity is essentially his first as QB1 since his days at the University of Buffalo.

"I've been around a lot of different places and big games, maybe not as the starter, but I've been around the starting QB and talked to him," said Willy. "You can pull on all those different experiences and put them into mind, but obviously this is the first regular start being 'The Guy.'

Willy said he will have his mom and dad, step-mom and step-dad and his little brother at the game. O'Shea's family, meanwhile, is back in Ontario finishing up some last-minute arranging before moving to Winnipeg.

Both went out of their way on Wednesday to steer clear of the spotlight and that's been a common approach since training camp opened in late May. Neither O'Shea nor Willy want this to be just about then, but instead a collective approach to turning around a franchise that has done a whole lot of losing over the last two years, going a combined 9-27.

But while they might hide their excitement when the cameras are rolling in the media room, it's evident to those around them daily.

"We're feeding off our head coach," said Turner. "He's very anxious himself -- this is his first big gig and you can see the butterflies in him, just like in the rookies who are starting. It's exciting for everyone."

"Buying in is going to be very important for this team," added veteran tackle Glenn January. "We've got a lot of new pieces here from across the league. Up to this point everybody has really, truly bought in and accepted what has been put in front of us. I'm excited to see what this group can do."

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2014 D2

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