Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–10–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Business as usual for Big Blue on Day 1

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NOBODY led a wildcat strike to walk out on a certain drill. There were no black armbands -- as the Saskatchewan Roughriders wore Sunday -- and no one among the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was heard humming Solidarity Forever.

In fact, Day 1 of Bomber training camp looked a whole lot like any other in the 80-plus years history of the franchise. Some guys stood out, some not so much. And as for the backdrop of camp opening without a new contract, whether the players like it or not, it will remain a topic of discussion -- especially when the cameras and notepads are aimed at the players by the media -- until a new deal is reached.

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"What's new? There's a whole lot new," said Glenn January, the Bombers CFL Players' Association rep, after practice. "We're out here Day 1, my friends are busting their tails trying to get ready for the season. There are no talks scheduled at this time that I've heard of. We're always open to have a sit-down with the league.

"We've reached out to them twice and have been shut down twice. We're just like that dog that keeps coming back for a beating. We'll reach out again, I imagine, somewhere down the road."

January did say he held a meeting Saturday with the players to provide an update -- as thin as the details may have been -- but then asked his teammates to turn their focus to the football field when practice started.

"I explained to the guys that you need to understand what's going on," January said. "But as soon as you walk in these doors we're Blue Bombers and our goal is to work as hard as we can while we're here to put ourselves in position to play for the Grey Cup. There's a lot of stuff going on outside these doors that can be distracting. There's so much going on for the rookies, there's so much going on for the new guys and even us learning the offence... there's so much going through your head and your body is getting worn down. If you start adding other stuff in there, you're setting yourself up for some failure.

"I told them, 'Let me handle it, let our executives handle it'. That's who was put in place to do this and they're doing an excellent job representing us and will continue to do that for us.

"There's certain guys that are upset with the situation," January added. "They understand what's going on, they're not happy with it and that can be expected. But there's some guys that are unhappy with it but it doesn't faze them very much. There's varying levels of concern throughout the locker-room. We're a unified group and that's one thing that has shone through: we're all together on this one way or the other, whether it's out here on the field or with our executive. We're a unified group across the league. We don't want to have anything similar to a work stoppage happen, but that's something is a possibility down the road. I told our guys if it happens, I'll tell you whenever I find out. I don't even know and I don't think it's going to happen any time soon."

Given the CBA backdrop, Bomber head coach Mike O'Shea said he was pleased with the first day of work. A former CFLPA executive himself, he also shook off the notion the players, ..."being only human", would be distracted by the lack of talks between their union and the league.

"I disagree, respectfully," said O'Shea. "They're professional athletes, and in this regard when they get on the practice field they want to practice, they want to win, they want to compete, they want to battle. They want all that stuff."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 2, 2014 C3

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Updated on Monday, June 2, 2014 at 1:07 PM CDT: Adds video

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