Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–6–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bombers have Plan B

Older, wiser Bryant starting in place of Kelly vs. Eskimos

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It was like being forced to watch a sneak preview to a movie Romby Bryant had absolutely no desire to see.

A few weeks ago the veteran receiver was an unemployed veteran receiver, having been given the "Respect your game, but it's time to hand in your playbook and move on" speech by the Toronto Argonauts.

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THE BRYANT FILE

NO. 84

Born: Dec. 21, 1979

Height: 6-2; Weight: 195

College: Tulsa

Coming full circle: Signed as a free agent by Winnipeg in 2008... Traded by Winnipeg to Calgary on Sept. 20, 2009 along with Arjei Franklin, a third-round pick in 2010 and other considerations for Jabari Arthur, Odell Willis, Titus Ryan, Derek Armstrong and fourth- and sixth-round picks in the 2010 Canadian Draft... Released by Calgary on Jan. 30, 2013 and signed with Toronto on Feb. 12, 2013... Released by Toronto on June 26, 2014; signed by Winnipeg on June 28.

Now, sure, it wasn't long before the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were on the phone offering him a second chance in a business in which they are not guaranteed. But in those hours between gigs Bryant was forced to do some serious soul-searching about his future.

"What's my Plan B? Well, every year I'm updating my resumé," said Bryant after practice on Tuesday. "I do have a lot of connections back home. I guess I'd talk to my agent and see where his head is at and what he thinks and I'm married now, so I talk to my wife.

"But I don't know what I'd do, to be honest with you. I've been playing football my whole career. Through college I never had to really work and then I went and played down south for a little bit. And as soon as I was done there, I was up here. As sad as it might sound, this is my career.

"That's why this is a blessing. At the end of the day this is a child's game and I'm getting paid to play a child's game."

'This' -- for the record -- is his first start of the 2014 CFL season, as he steps in to the Bomber receiving corps to replace a hobbled Aaron Kelly. But Bryant also knows the game now owes him no favours. He's 34 and carved out a respectable career in the CFL that is now into a seventh year and includes a couple of 1,000-yard campaigns.

All that after bouncing around in the NFL with Arizona, Atlanta and Baltimore.

And what was clear Tuesday as Bryant held court with the media -- a notion that seems almost unfathomable for anyone who tried to interview him in his first stint here -- is how he is he now both introspective and appreciative of his second go-round in Bombers colours.

The passing of time and the threat of losing your livelihood tends to do that to a guy.

"It feels good to be out there and to get another chance where I started," said Bryant. "I'm looking at it like I'm coming full circle. I'm doing it for the fans that embraced me when I first got here.

"The thought (that his career might be over) crossed my mind. I didn't know if people were going to take a chance with me with my age or whatever and then with Toronto letting me go out of the blue, maybe people thought I couldn't play any more.

"Every year people have something to prove. We have something to prove as players. We're trying to fight for a job. And I feel like I have even more to prove because I'm older and in this league there's a lot of turnover and they always want to go younger."

Just for the record, Bryant completed his university degree in 2012 when he went back to school to finish off his major in communications. And because football has been his life -- and in part because he really enjoyed coaching kids as part of an off-season internship with the Ravens -- the Olkahoma City product is hoping his career after the game might still be in the game.

Right now, however, it about soaking up every bit of the moment... as fleeting as he knows it may be.

"Football forces you to think like that," said Bryant. "And when the end does come, you deal with it then.

"So, I'll cross that bridge when I get there. I don't want to cross it too soon, I don't even want to have one foot on it."

GOOD SEATS STILL AVAILABLE: As much as this town has been desperate for a winning football team, there still seems to be a bit of a lukewarm response to Thursday's battle of the unbeatens between the Bombers and Eskimos, both 3-0.

Ticket sales were humming on Tuesday, but the last count had the total at 27,700. Capacity at Investors Group Field, FYI, is 33,500.

QUOTABLE: O'Shea, when asked if having worked with new Eskimos head coach Chris Jones in Toronto last year gave him any tendencies on what Edmonton might do defensively:

"Chris Jones is very diligent in charting his own tendencies. I don't think me believing that I know what he's going to do next is really what he's going to do next."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 16, 2014 D3

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