November 26, 2015


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It's a big wait off their shoulders

Two-week delay till first game a relief to injured, veterans

Bombers Carl Fitzgerald, Patrick Neufeld, and Paul Swiston work in practice Tuesday at Investors Group Field.


Bombers Carl Fitzgerald, Patrick Neufeld, and Paul Swiston work in practice Tuesday at Investors Group Field. Purchase Photo Print

The Bombers settled in Tuesday for the first practice of their long wait. Due to a CFL scheduling quirk, the squad won't play their first regular-season game until they host the Argonauts on June 26, almost two weeks after last Saturday's exhibition game.

Oh, perhaps the young bucks are raring to play -- but the veterans weren't about to complain. "Well, I'm 31 years old, so it's a fantastic thing," offensive lineman Glenn January said. "The more time off to prepare for an opponent, the more time off to rest the body, it's something you can use to your advantage. We basically have a head start on Toronto."

Plus, the gap should give the Bombers a chance to get some aching bodies back. Players not practising Tuesday were running back Paris Cotton; receivers Rory Kohlert, Donavon Kemp and Julian Feoli-Gudino; linebackers Aram Eisho and Jesse Briggs; safety Dan West and defensive backs Alex Suber, Donovan Alexander, Michael Ray Garvin, Marty Markett and Maurice Leggett.

Most of those were day-to-day injuries, coach Mike O'Shea said, as he ran through the list in his head. "They're getting their treatment two or three times a day, and every morning is a reassessment," he said. "I think this time frame between games is pretty beneficial in that regard. We should get a good amount of bodies back in that time. Which is comforting, it's good."


Sick bay starts to empty out

Some good news on the injury front, as Canadian slotback Cory Watson returned to practice for the first time since hurting his hamstring June 1.

It's been a rough ride for Watson, a powerful talent hampered by injury in recent seasons: Last year, he only dressed for 11 games. So rehabilitating the hamstring before the season "felt good," he said. "It's frustrating, because you want to be out there and get a feel of how things are going to be. But one good thing is, it's early in the season, and hopefully I won't miss any games. So it will be great."

Other battered Bombers made their return on Tuesday. Tailback Will Ford took some reps. So did offensive lineman Paul Swiston, back for his first practice after healing from off-season shoulder surgery. Receiver Nick Moore returned to the field, as did defensive back Johnny Sears, after sitting out most of training camp.

Renaud likes being pushed

Every year of Mike Renaud's career, he's faced some competition for his punter spot. This year was no different, as the club was also eyeing American Brett Maher for one of the booting jobs. But with Maher getting cut on Monday, Renaud looks set to start his sixth season in the CFL.

Surely there's some relief in that, but in terms of having to fight for his job -- well, no harm, no foul. "Complacency is a killer," Renaud said. "In the last five years I've faced battles in numerous different ways, and it elevates your game. Competition breeds the best in everyone, and I've never exempted myself from that."

Pivot-al decision awaits O'Shea

Head coach Mike O'Shea wasn't ready to say whether the team plans to carry all four quarterbacks through the season, or look to move one to the practice roster. Still "evaluating" that part, he said. "Obviously, we'd like to have as many quarterbacks around as possible, but there's a limitation of what you can and can't do," he said. "If you could have six or eight, why wouldn't you?"

So far, safe to say that Drew Willy will be the starter, and Robert Marve sure looks like he'll slot in somewhere. As for Brian Brohm, who led a touchdown drive against Calgary on Saturday, "he's been on a very nice steady learning pace," O'Shea said. "They all have gotten better, every time they get in there they're getting better. What has been noticeable is how quickly they bring the playbook... onto the field."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 18, 2014 D4

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