Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Now it's up to Willy & Co.

Bombers talk good game, but can they play one?

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There's a certain ignorance-is-bliss feel to the opening of any Canadian Football League season. Nowhere more so, perhaps, than right here in Winnipeg with the Blue Bombers.

Rosters are forever turning over in this grand ol' league as coaches move around and players change addresses. As a result, hope springs eternal in June because teams can go from 6-12 to the Grey Cup game, a la the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last season.

So excuse the Bombers for imbibing in a little of their own Kool-Aid as well on Sunday. After all, if a squad doesn't believe in itself before the ball is even placed on the tee for the first game, then it might as well throw up the white flag for the entire campaign.

"We have all the vital parts you need," said receiver Nick Moore Sunday after the club's first full practice as a squad after rosters were sliced down on the weekend. "The funny thing is, my fiancée was asking me how I thought the team was going to be. I told her, I thought we were going to be good.

"But the real test comes Thursday and we'll assess ourselves after."

Yeah, there is that -- the games do tend to reveal strengths and flaws. And with just nine wins in their last 36 games, there is more than just a little apathy around this football team right now.

'When guys go down the other guys step up and they fully expect to do well'

-- Mike O'Shea

At least, outside the locker-room walls.

Still, while the stain of a couple of horrible seasons can be tough to remove, this is a squad with a new head coach in Mike O'Shea, a new starting quarterback in Drew Willy and so many new faces program sales should be brisk Thursday night when the Toronto Argonauts pay a visit to Investors Group Field for the 2014 opener.

With so many roster changes -- let alone adjustments to their starting 12s on offence and defence -- the rest of the CFL is looking at the Bombers as a little bit of a mystery.

Check that... a LOT of a mystery.

"I'm sure they are. You could say that about every team, though," said O'Shea Sunday. "There's new guys on every team. I don't get the sense from the actual players that they feel they're a mystery. I don't get that sense. I don't think they're waiting to see what they're all about. They've had a good training camp and they've worked at a level they may not have worked at before. They're excited about that.

"I believe that if they were waiting to see who they are we'd get that sense and we'd work to change that."

Although he has yet to coach a real game yet, that type of answer has already become commonplace for the new Bomber coach. He's already masterful at turning any question around for a positive spin.

Example: when he was asked Sunday if he was concerned his defence will be without three regulars when Ricky Ray comes to town -- Alex Suber, Korey Banks and Donovan Alexander will all open the season on the one-game injured list -- O'Shea grinned.

"It could be a good thing," he said. "They don't have a preconceived notion of how good Ricky Ray is, right? You design training camp, your Florida (free agent) camp, your scouting combines, to bring in talent to push at every position.

"When guys go down the other guys step up and they fully expect to do well. Each of those players that are going to play against Toronto fully expect to do the job they are asked to do."

That's a good answer on a Sunday before a Thursday opener. While the truth will begin revealing itself against the Argos, the Bombers will insist belief can also be a powerful motivator.

There was Willy on Sunday, gushing about his team's focus and blah, blah, blah when asked why he felt so good about this squad. He didn't hesitate.

"I was around the Grey Cup champs last year, so I think I have a good feel for what a good team looks like."

Solid answer. Now it's up to Willy & Co. to start proving it.

 

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

MOre Bombers on C5

 

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2014 C1

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