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Blue Bomber Report (11–7–0)

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Bombers looking at younger receivers

Team releases Ralph, Howell retires again

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/5/2011 (2177 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

IT'S a pretty simple formula when any football team decides it wants to get younger and cheaper -- older and expensive becomes expendable.

And so it was for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Monday, a day that featured the release of four players, the signing of four others and the retirement of veteran receiver Markus Howell.

Cory Watson

Cory Watson

The biggest transaction of the day -- less than 24 hours after the club added six prospects in the CFL Canadian Draft -- was the release of veteran receiver Brock Ralph.

The 29-year-old had become a whipping boy for fan frustration over the last two years in which he pulled in a total of 74 passes for 953 yards and three TDs.

But the emergence of Cory Watson late last season, the fact Aaron Hargreaves is still only 25, Scott McHenry is 23 and the team drafted two receivers in Sunday's draft in Jade Etienne and Liam Mahoney -- coupled with the presence of two former CIS stars who will get a look at training camp in David McKoy and Josh Bishop -- made Ralph an easy target for management.

Also released were linebacker Courtney Smith and receiver Chris Davis, both imports and Canadian fullback Andre Sadeghian.

Meanwhile, the club did add to its training-camp depth with the signing of three import defensive linemen -- Dashawn Cassell, Bryant Turner and Jason Vega -- along with import receiver Perry Floyd.

Here's the goods on the new recruits:

-- Cassell (6-3, 280, College of the Canyons) was a First-Team Northern National Football Conference all-star as a senior after registering 35 tackles, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, one interception and one blocked kick.

-- Turner (6-2, 260, Alabama at Birmingham) picked up 18 sacks in four years with the Blazers, adding 97 tackles and three forced fumbles. He was an All-Conference USA Honourable Mention as a senior after finishing the season with seven sacks and eight tackles for losses.

-- Vega (6-3, 255, Northeastern) was in training camp with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last season after an outstanding college career that saw him rack up 41 sacks in 41 games over four seasons.

-- Floyd (5-8, 168, Wingate) was a NCAA Division II Second Team All-American as a return specialist in 2009 and last season ranked fourth in the NCAA with 187.8 all-purpose yards per game. Last season he set a school single-season record with 1,878 all-purpose yards.

Howell's retirement after 11 years in the CFL, six with the Bombers, comes as no surprise. He retired from the Calgary Stampeders a year ago only to rejoin the Bombers last summer. Originally drafted by the club in the fourth round (25th overall) of the 2000 CFL Canadian Draft, Howell played for Winnipeg, then Ottawa and was a member of the Stamps' 2008 Grey-Cup championship side.

LATE BLOOMER TO FIRST- ROUNDER: Interesting story about receiver Jade Etienne, drafted fourth overall by the Bombers on Sunday -- a pick that many in the CFL saw as a 'reach': the 21-year-old University of Saskatchewan product was originally a kicker, got bored with that and switched to receiver two years ago.

Last season -- his first as a starter -- he pulled in 28 passes for a whopping 721 yards and six TDs in seven games en route to being named a CIS All-Canadian. The Bombers hope that massive development in one season continues as a pro.

"I'm amazed, just so happy," Etienne said Sunday. "I'm shocked because I wasn't expecting to be picked in the first round, maybe the second, but it's a good Mother's Day present. She burst into tears when coach (Paul) LaPolice called. It's a great day."

Just to clarify another point: Etienne is 185, not the 160 as listed in some CFL draft publications.

"I'm quick, a big target -- well, a tall target, I don't know about big -- and I have great hands," he said. "I'm still learning, I'm young but I think I'm going to be a good fit in Winnipeg."

BLUE NOTES: The Bombers added two players after the draft on Sunday who will be in training camp this June: LB John Surla of Western, a second-team CIS All-Canadian and Concordia kicker Rene Parades.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

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