Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 08/28/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
THE Winnipeg Blue Bombers haven't won in Regina since 2004, an anchor that has hung around this team's neck for a decade.
But if the Bombers are feeling that weight this week as they prepare to travel once again to Regina for their annual Labour Day Weekend matchup with the Saskatchewan Roughriders this Sunday, you won't catch head coach Mike O'Shea admitting to it.
On the contrary, O'Shea believes his team has already shown this season that it can overcome the ghosts of this franchise's disastrous recent past.
"You're asking about a psychological hurdle and I think we've made strides in that department, too," O'Shea told reporters Wednesday afternoon at Investors Group Field after his team returned to the practice field for the first time since a win over the Montreal Alouettes last Friday.
"I think that was part of the deal coming here was to change to a more positive mindset to take to the field at all times. And we've done well with that, so I don't anticipate any problems in that regard."
Three defensive starters that were absent from last week's win over Montreal -- LB EJ Kuale, LB/DB Johnny Sears and DE Jason Vega-- were all active participants at practice Wednesday but it isn't clear yet how the three fit into O'Shea's plan against the Riders.
Vega split first-team repetitions with Kashawn Fraser and O'Shea said he hasn't yet decided how those two players will fit into Sunday's scheme. He said it's also not yet clear how -- or even if -- Sears fits into Sunday's lineup.
O'Shea did say, however, that Kuale is a confirmed player on Sunday.
Meanwhile, another roster question mark popped up during Wednesday's practice when centre Steve Morley left practice early with what O'Shea described as a shoulder injury.
O'Shea said he didn't believe the injury is serious, but wasn't sure if Morley would practise today.
The Bombers offensive line is already a bit makeshift this week. Patrick Neufeld, who got hurt against Montreal, didn't practise and practice- roster player Jarvis Jones was taking Neufeld's reps at right guard on Wednesday.
DARIAN IN, OR OUT? The media in Regina reported every movement of QB Darian Durant Wednesday at practice as if it was a Grey Cup game. Durant injured his throwing hand in last week's win over the B.C. Lions and was replaced by Tino Sunseri. At the first practice of the week Durant was able to hand off and throw a bit, but it was Sunseri who took most of the reps.
"The hand is sore," Durant told the Regina Leader-Post. "It's pretty sore. We'll just take it day to day and see where we are."
Asked if the hand had been examined or X-rayed, Durant added: "I don't want to get too much into that. At the end of the day, I'm striving to play this weekend. I'm going to do everything necessary therapy-wise to put me in a good position to go and, if I can't, then I know Tino will be ready.
"If you played any other position, you can just tape it up, take some meds and be good to go. But being a quarterback, you need your hands more than anything else. That definitely makes it tough."
The Bombers were downplaying the importance of whether it's Durant or Sunseri who takes the first snap on Sunday. But, clearly, the difference between the two in experience is huge. Sunseri is in his second year and has thrown all of 38 passes.
MESSAGE? WHAT MESSAGE? Sears has been dogged by injuries this season, missing five of Winnipeg's nine games so far.
While the first four missed games were because of injury, Sears says he was a healthy scratch last Friday against Montreal.
So, Sears was asked Wednesday, is the coaching staff trying to send you a message?
"If they did, I didn't get the message. I don't know what the message was. Maybe they needed to be a bit louder," Sears laughed on Wednesday. "It is what it is. I'm just rolling with it and hopefully I get my chance soon."
Sears was taking some first-team reps on Wednesday at field halfback, but O'Shea was noncommittal about his status for Sunday.
"As the week rolls on, we'll figure that out. But to say we can just add Johnny on right now is not the case. We'd have to swap somebody out."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 28, 2014 D2
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