1. Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing
Mike O'Shea tore a page out of the Vince Lombardi quotebook on Sunday, more or less, stressing the importance of winning -- even if this is just a dress rehearsal.
"We want to win, we want to win everything," said O'Shea. "That's No. 1... that's why we play, to win. We talk about gaining all the little wins leading up to this point, from practice. We talk about winning a lot. It matters to me.
"If you ask any of these guys in here, they all want to win, too. I don't think you can find a guy who will say it's OK to lose a pre-season game. At the end of it, when they sit down in the dressing room afterwards, they're going to be fairly excited if they won. They're not going to sit there and say, 'Oh, it's just a pre-season game' they're going to say it's a good thing. It's a building process and you do have to learn how to win, too."
FYI, the Bombers were 0-2 in the pre-season last year, losing 24-6 to Toronto and 52-0 in Hamilton.
2. A sneak peek at the new QB
It's been awhile since Drew Willy was in the spotlight, likely dating back to his days as a four-year starter at the University of Buffalo. All four quarterbacks, including Max Hall, Brian Brohm and Robert Marve, will see action, so Willy's time at the controls will be limited.
Still, you only get one chance to make a good first impression and the 27-year-old will take the first snap from centre.
"We'd like to get into the end zone," said Willy. "We've been working real hard out here and I think we've been successful so far in camp. So, we just want to take that, the stuff we've learned in practice, take it to the field and give the fans something exciting to watch.
"I want to be decisive. Come out here, go through my reads and give guys a catchable ball and let them run with it after the catch. I want to lead the offence and get some points on the board early and get us off to a good start."
3. A sneak peek at the new HC
It hasn't taken long to understand this about O'Shea, the Bombers rookie head coach: He has left little doubt who is in charge with his players, but would just as soon steer clear of any attention that might come his way. He's not big on scripted speeches and clearly doesn't like the attention his first game as the new boss might be getting.
Asked if he might be running out of the tunnel Monday night and find himself thinking, "Wow... I'm the head coach of the Bombers, this is a cool deal," O'Shea gave a glimpse at his no-nonsense approach:
"It's been cool for a while," he said. "So, it's not going to be new cool. This is all good stuff. Yeah, I imagine I'll think it's pretty neat. I'll imagine my kids will think it's pretty neat as they watch. But, I've run out of a tunnel before, so..."
4. A Bison homecoming or two
Investors Group Field is hardly new for running back Anthony Coombs and linebacker Thomas Miles, both products of the University of Manitoba Bisons. But running out onto the turf in the blue and white of the Toronto Argonauts -- as players trying to make a living in the game -- does make this a substantially different deal.
Both players are Winnipeggers and were developed by the high school football league here; Coombs from Sturgeon Heights, Miles from Churchill. So, expect both to have a whole lot invested in this game.
Paramount for the two of them, of course, is to still be on the roster in 17 days when the Argos are back in Winnipeg for the regular-season opener.
5. Who steps up, who falls back
Pre-season games might draw a collective yawn from veterans. But for rookies or players looking to simply lock up a roster spot, they are monumental. The Bombers' massive makeover means a number of starting jobs are up for grabs. And one of the more interesting battles has been for the starting tailback job, pitting incumbent Will Ford against Paris Cotton and Nic Grigsby, both of whom have been impressive in camp.
"I only know 100 (per cent)," said Cotton, a product of Central Michigan. "So, I'm going to come out here and do everything I need to do on every play, every chance I get. You don't have to hold back against another team, so that's what I'm looking forward to. I'm trying to earn my spot, show off my talents, come out here and compete for a win.
"I'm an every-down back. I can do anything you ask me to do out on the field. I'm an all-round football player."
Grigsby, meanwhile, is also a gifted athlete who has had look-sees from Toronto and B.C. in the CFL after tryouts with Miami, Oakland, Tampa and Green Bay. He's also a heckuva baseball player who played with the Minnesota Twins rookie team. But it's been a year-and-a-half since he carried the pigskin -- his last game coming in the UFL for the Las Vegas Locomotives when he scored two touchdowns against Marcel Bellefeuille's Omaha Nighthawks.
"I'm just getting back into the game of football again so (Monday's) going to be exciting," said Grigsby. "It's going to be Step 1... going live, live bullets, guys are going to be flying around everywhere. It's going to be different, but it's going to be fun."
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