Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

CFL game an eye-opener

Linebacker used to playing in tiny arenas

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There seems to be a lot of grace to go around in the case of Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Wendell Brown.

The 26-year-old from Detroit said repeatedly Friday how blessed he is to have been invited to training camp and given an opportunity.

The Bombers sound like they recognize the blessing at a position where they are not exactly overrun with capable candidates and where they already have injuries to key players like Henoc Muamba and Johnny Sears.

The team uncovered Brown, who was a three-year starter at Ball State, via off-season workouts.

"It's a blessing to be able to go to different workouts and get in front of the right eyes," Brown said Friday at Investors Group Field. "I was able to work out under the player personnel (director) Ken Moll a few times this past year.

'We're excited about him. He's got a long way to go as do all rookies, but we're excited about the potential of that young man'

-- defensive co-ordinator Casey Creehan on linebacker Wendell Brown

"I got invited to the private workout in Atlanta and by the grace of God he's been covering me and I was able to impress Mr. Moll and Mr. Mack (Bombers GM) at the private workout."

Coming from two seasons of arena football, Brown said he'd been working hard on his conditioning, his footwork, his speed. The Bombers asked him to trim down a bit from 245 pounds and when he did, here he is outdoors again.

And yes, there's a big difference from arena football.

"It's a lot of space," smiled Brown, who's listed at 6-0, 214 pounds in the camp guide. "You definitely have to be in condition. We work on that every practice, running even after the ball is thrown.

"It's a big difference. Not too much space in the arena league, now come out here, this is huge, standing in the middle of the field."

It sure sounds like Bombers defensive co-ordinator and linebackers coach Casey Creehan sees Brown as a viable defensive player this season.

"I didn't know anything about him before he came but he's a tremendous young man," Creehan said Friday. "He's eager about learning to get better.

"When you're in this business, it's kind of funny. There's always a guy that during practice, he might look OK but he's struggling through some things and then when the lights come on, all of a sudden boom, the guy makes plays and he's all over the field.

"That was Wendell the other night. We're excited about him. He's got a long way to go as do all rookies, but we're excited about the potential of that young man."

Head coach Tim Burke also referred to the lights.

"Sometimes it takes a while for the light switch to turn on for guys," Burke said after Wednesday's exhibition game. "It seems like it's turned on for him and he's starting to fly around and make some plays.

"He's that kind of guy anyway. He's an aggressive guy. Once you start putting in a bunch of defences, pretty soon that slows down because you're thinking so much. I think now he's to the point where he understands what we're doing so he can fly around and make plays."

Brown said he's saw plenty of his own mistakes in the film of Wednesdays's 24-6 pre-season loss to the Toronto Argonauts but he doesn't sound discouraged.

"On the film I saw I made a lot of mistakes so it was definitely a learning experiences, a lot of things I have to correct," Brown said. "We're being coached very hard to make sure we correct those mistakes.

"But it was a great experience, my first time playing back outdoors. And to get out there with a lot of professionals. There's speed everywhere. The field's spread all the way out."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2013 C3

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