The Canadian Football League's labour strife casts a mighty big shadow for Mike O'Shea and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
But, just like all of his counterparts across the CFL map, O'Shea will proceed business as usual with the opening of rookie camp today -- and then cross his fingers the two sides can get to work on hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement when they resume negotiations in Toronto.
'We've tried to assemble a group of good character guys that love to play the game'
"First of all, we're not allowed to comment on it. That's my first answer," said O'Shea. "We're prepared to coach."
The Bombers hope to have 45 players, including quarterbacks, on the field for rookie camp, which runs through Friday. But the current CBA also expires Friday and what happens after that currently remains a mystery for both sides. Asked if that uncertainty is something he would take into consideration as a coach, O'Shea said:
"No. Not at all. The players that are going to be here want to play. They want to work. Everybody loves football. We've tried to assemble a group of good character guys that love to play the game."
ANOTHER ARM IN THE BULLPEN: The Bombers announced Tuesday that University of Manitoba quarterback Jordan Yantz has been invited to camp. The 24-year-old Yantz was a Canada West all-star last season, finishing first in the conference in passing (fourth in CIS) with 2,474 yards and led the country with 25 touchdown passes.
Yantz will join veteran QBs Drew Willy and Max Hall as well as Brian Brohm, who spent last year on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats injured list, and rookie Robert Marve.
The camp will also feature four members of the Winnipeg Rifles in receiver Kurt Goodrich, defensive end Spencer Riche, offensive lineman Braiden Watson and fullback Tariq LaChance.
REMEMBER WHEN? O'Shea was asked what he remembered about his first rookie camp as a player, back in 1993 with Hamilton.
"I remember the rookie show (where vets have the players sing, entertain, etc.)," said O'Shea. "I remember a lot of things. It was like yesterday. Hamilton... we were in the visitors' change room (at Ivor Wynne Stadium), which obviously wasn't a very nice change room. I loved it. It's your first training camp, so I loved it. I was the last one sitting in there. Everyone else had already cleared off and moved into the vet locker room and they finally came to tell me I could move into the vet locker-room. I wasn't going to move until they told me to.
"They have to understand it's a great opportunity. It's a job interview and they can't leave anything to chance, and show us everything they can possibly show us. If they do that, then whatever the outcome is for them is out of their control as long as they can given everything they could possibly give."
Asked if he had plans for a rookie show with the Bombers, O'Shea added:
"I don't. I'm a rookie head coach... if I do that I'll probably have to do something."