Blue Bomber Report Record: 4–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Colour O'Shea grey

Coach says goal is to win Cup... why else do you play?

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There are no shortage of doubters when it comes to the 2014 edition of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Oddsmakers are predicting the worst team in the CFL last year will be lousy again in 2014, with the online gambling site bodog.ca this week listing the Bombers as a 12-1 long shot to win the Grey Cup, ahead of only the 18-1 expansion Ottawa Redblacks.

That's what happens when your team heads into a new season thin and inexperienced in the two most important categories in the CFL -- Canadian and quarterback.

But while there are skeptics aplenty right now about what's been going on this spring at Investors Group Field, the head coach of the Bombers insists he is not one of them.

Indeed, asked on Friday if he thinks he has built a team that can advance to the playoffs -- something only one Bombers team in the last five has done -- Mike O'Shea went even a step further.

"I believe in our guys. I believe in the staff I've put together. I believe in the character of the guys, I believe in how hard they've worked in training camp.

"There's only one reason to start the season," O'Shea continued, "and that's to win the Grey Cup."

Of course, if it was actually true that winning the Grey Cup is a prerequisite for starting the CFL season, we'd be coming up on a quarter-century without pro football in a city where Bombers fans haven't celebrated at Portage and Main since 1990.

The Bombers are coming off a 3-15 season in 2013 and will head into the start of the regular season next week with a club that remains thin on starting Canadians and very, very green at quarterback, where the four men listed at the position have a combined total of just four lifetime starts in the CFL.

Much of what little previous CFL experience the Bombers did have at quarterback was tossed on the scrap heap Friday with the announcement veteran backup Max Hall was among the 11 players released as part of Winnipeg's final major round of training camp cuts.

With Hall gone, starter Drew Willy and his four previous starts in Saskatchewan over the last two seasons will represent the sum total of CFL experience the Bombers have at the quarterback position.

But if you think O'Shea is losing sleep about it -- or the ratio situation or anything else -- you think wrong.

"Maybe I'm young, but I don't seem too worried. I'm not worried about it. I sleep fine, you know. The main sort of quest, I guess, for what's going to make a difference for us -- and a lot of coaches think this way -- is how quickly are these guys going to come together," said O'Shea.

"It doesn't worry me. I think we've put enough character guys in the locker-room. We've empowered enough guys to take leadership roles."

YARDSTICKS: In addition to Hall, the other 10 cuts Friday were: import receivers Mario Urrutia, Mark Dell, Jaymar Johnson and Bert Reed; import defensive backs Stephon Morris, Michael Ray Garvin and Matt Pierce; import defensive lineman Willie Moseley; import offensive lineman Jesse Peterson; and non-import receiver Taylor Renaud... The Bombers will announce their practice roster and injury lists on Sunday... The club said none of the players released Friday were offered practice roster spots.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 21, 2014 C1

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