Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–10–0

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Newest recruits fighting for jobs

Bombers welcome seven new players

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Defensive end Jake Killeen (51) shoves receiver Rory Kohlert during the Blue Bombers' practice session Wednesday.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Defensive end Jake Killeen (51) shoves receiver Rory Kohlert during the Blue Bombers' practice session Wednesday. Photo Store

New faces spilled into the Blue Bombers locker-room this week, though the moves were less an emergency airlift and more about stockpiling for the future.

On Wednesday, the day the CFL allowed teams to expand their practice rosters, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats added three, the Calgary Stampeders five. The Bombers, though, brought in seven guys on Tuesday and Wednesday: four on the defence, three on the attack.

The youngest, linebacker Taylor Reed, just turned 22 this summer. The most veteran, 27-year-old defensive end Jake Killeen, is something of a football journeyman, though it's his first time in the CFL.

"I got a call on Saturday, they asked me if I wanted to come up on Monday, and the rest is history," Killeen said, beaming after his first practice on Wednesday.

Yes, he knows the Bombers' record. No, that doesn't dampen his enthusiasm.

"I got a guy in front of me who's probably the best defensive end in the league. They're not looking to fill a void in my area at the moment, but I come out here every day planning on playing' -- defensive end Jack Killeen

"If you have a losing attitude, you shouldn't be playing football anyways," he said, bluntly. "You shouldn't be on any team."

And oh, Killeen has seen some teams.

He bounced around the IFL and AFL, he was signed by the NFL's Indianapolis Colts in January but they let him go in May.

In just a few days, he got a pretty good read on the Bombers' situation: maybe the door at defensive end isn't open just now, but things change.

"I got a guy in front of me who's probably the best defensive end in the league," he said.

"They're not looking to fill a void in my area at the moment, but I come out here every day planning on playing. I don't come out here planning to sit on the bench. My goal is to earn a starting job."

On that note, it's curious how the new blood mostly came on defence, when the offence evidently could use the help more.

Head coach Tim Burke said that's just how things worked out, while defensive co-ordinator Casey Creehan said he just welcomes the players he's been dealt.

"It's tough on them, because when you don't have a training camp to learn a system, it's really hard to get in there and play," said Creehan.

"But it's good, because you're able to look at some young guys and start trying to develop some talent, whether it be for a few weeks down the road or even next year... At the end of the day, in this business with injuries, you never know."

And so coaches are indeed keeping an eye on what the new guys will show. While most are auditioning for next year, Burke agreed, the Bombers should have enough space under the salary cap they could squeeze in players who would help the team win now.

On that end, he liked what he saw from Mario Fannin, a running back whose two-season career on the Denver Broncos roster was derailed by injury, and from defensive end J.D. Griggs.

The rest, Burke added, will get their best chance next week, when the Bombers have more practice days.

"We'll definitely have time to work them in and see what they can do," he said. "We've got to try to find out if these guys can play."

Because hey, where there is new blood there is a flicker of optimism: Something undiscovered, maybe. Something to be salvaged from the muck of this season, no matter what the roster looks like now or where it seems the new guys could slot in.

"The coaches brought you here for a reason," Fannin said. "You have to come out here and prove what you can do. I'm here now and I'm ready to work."

 

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2013 D7

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