Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 08/28/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 08/28/2014 6:38 AM | Updates
It's a simple question, but the answer is complicated and, frankly, still very much to be determined.
So as they pull out of a pit stop at the midway point of the CFL season and gear up for this weekend's annual Labour Day Classic, we ask this:
Who, exactly, are the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?
It's a thought that is currently being tossed around all across the three-down loop as the Bombers -- who came into the 2014 season as more than a mystery, what with a new head coach and starting quarterback in the wake of last year's 3-15 mushroom cloud -- remain an unknown.
The 6-3 run through the first half of the season has been highlighted by fourth-quarter comebacks, the maturation of QB Drew Willy and more wins than some -- hello -- figured they would earn in the entire campaign.
But five of the six wins have also come against the patsies of the CFL's (L)East Division, there have been issues along the line of scrimmage, and the second half of the campaign features seven of nine games against the West.
So, who are the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, exactly?
"I'll describe our crew this way: we're like dogs," said defensive tackle Zach Anderson after practice Wednesday. "I don't know how many games we've won just by teeth and grit. The fourth-quarter comebacks with Drew... last week against Montreal was a dogfight the whole game and we've had a few of those.
"That's what is different this year, everyone has that fight. Nobody on this team stops. We expect to win and train each week to win. We have strong leadership here and that leadership brings the dog out of you. You want to fight for coach O'Shea and Drew and the leaders here. And when you are down, when you're banged up and you can't breathe, you don't want to give up. You keep fighting."
There's been a whole lot of chatter like that in Bomberland since the lid lifted on the CFL season back in late June. The buy-in to the message of head coach Mike O'Shea has been significant. That message in itself may already be tiresome to those watching from afar, but it is a powerful motivator in the room.
And it could be severely tested in the second half of the season when the 2014 campaign will be properly framed. The Bombers have seven of their last nine games against their West Division foes, including a pair of games against defending Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan, Calgary and B.C.
Yes, as impressive as the first half-run has been, this race is only just starting to get interesting.
"There's still a long road ahead of us," said offensive tackle Glenn January. "We've got a lot of tough games against the West Division.
"I'm not one to put labels on a team, but I'll say this: we're having a lot of fun. We're having a lot of fun working our tails off. Shoot, if you had to put us in a category, we're a team that constantly believes we're going to win a game, whether it's the first day of practice or if there is one minute left in the game. That's huge. That's confidence.
"So this team is excited to go out to Saskatchewan and play this team again. Not because we think it's going to be easy, but because we know it's going to be a challenge.
"We're excited again to go out there and get into a fist fight with our neighbours."
January speaks from experience. In past years, the Labour Day Classic has been a nightmare for the Bombers, who usually limped into Regina already needing several acts of God and minor miracles just to remain in the playoff discussion before Thanksgiving.
"When you know you're working toward a playoff berth it's exciting," said January. "I know that sounds obvious, but you're not working just to get to Week 18 and then going on holidays, like it has been for the last couple of years. You're continually building towards the playoffs. You just don't understand how exciting that is.
"This whole season will be a fist fight. We're exchanging blows. But it's going to go 18 rounds."
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 28, 2014 0
Updated on Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 6:38 AM CDT: Replaces photo, changes headline
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