Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–3–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bombers zero in on Canadian draft

Clubs showing interest in their No. 2 pick

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Thet are beyond "cleanup-in-aisles-three-four-and-five" mode now.

The after-effects of the Joe Mack era may still impact the Winnipeg Blue Bombers occasionally, but the days of hanging current problems on a previous regime are distant blips in the rear-view mirror for Wade Miller, Kyle Walters, Mike O'Shea & Co.

So when the Bombers held their annual state-of-the-franchise conference call with the country's football media on Friday, most of the discussion was on what's ahead, not the mess left behind.

Walters and O'Shea touched on a number of issues on a variety of questions. Here's the abridged version of the meatiest stuff:

-- Walters on whether the club is fielding more offers now for the first-round pick, second overall, in next Tuesday's Canadian draft:

'You can't just plug them in there if they're not ready. The interesting thing is, I believe players are more ready to come in and play'

-- Bomber head coach Mike O'Shea

"It's a little bit more now. Varied interest. A few more calls, a little bit more realistic options. I would anticipate as we get closer it may heat up even more, but we'll see."

Walters maintains the club would have to get a substantial offer before even considering trading the No. 2 overall pick.

-- O'Shea when asked how realistic it is to expect the No. 2 overall player to be ready to start by the end of training camp:

"You can't just plug them in there if they're not ready. The interesting thing is, I believe players are more ready to come in and play. And when you talk to these players they certainly leave you with the impression they're more ready to play than ever. They're very confident and they have their own expectations that are very high they can come in and start right away. But as a coach -- and I'm sure Kyle would say the same thing as the general manager -- you can't force them into that spot if they're not ready and then hurt the rest of the team."

The Bombers' other options at centre, should they not draft one next week or have a prospect not be ready for the season, include veterans Steve Morley and Chris Kowalczuk.

-- Walters on how Quinn Smith's positive test for the use of the anabolic steroid stanozolol affects his draft status:

"Mike and I, the first thing we did this morning was meet and talk about that. I'm not going to comment publicly about Quinn Smith, he's got a lot going on right now. We've got a plan and that's fine and everything has said the same thing this morning."

Smith, a defensive lineman from Concordia who could be switched to the offensive line, is ranked fourth by the CFL Scouting Bureau.

-- O'Shea when asked if there was a potential for a quarterback other than Drew Willy to be declared the starter by the conclusion of training camp:

"No. He demonstrated down in Florida (he's) very accurate and the other thing I liked about him down there is he's not afraid to go downfield. He took risks in practice and didn't try to play it safe. He absorbed the playbook very quickly, showed some leadership... I don't foresee that changing from the start of training camp to the end."

-- O'Shea on the release of veteran NFL linebacker Gerald McRath last week, a move which leaves the Bombers looking thin, on paper, at the MLB spot:

"Although McRath's a very good player, there were just some things that our defensive staff was looking for that they maybe didn't see there (Florida free-agent camp) and they wanted to keep looking. It's a priority for our scouts to find a middle linebacker to come in and work at that spot.

"It's not something we worried about, it's something we planned for and having that camp early enough gives us lots of time to fill a couple of holes that we identified after Florida."

O'Shea listed Ian Wild, Graig Newman, Stafford Gatling and Kenny Tate as possible middle linebacker candidates.

-- And, finally, Walters said defensive back Kris Robertson, who was drafted 11th overall last year but lost his season due to injury, will be at rookie camp later this month. Florida wide receiver Stephen Alli, drafted in the sixth round despite injury red flags, is still not healthy.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2014 C1

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