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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pencer no pushover in strange CFL debut

Posted: 09/15/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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EDMONTON -- It was enough that offensive lineman Tyson Pencer, the 2012 first-round draft pick of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, was handed this assignment for his first CFL game.

Coming into the lineup for a struggling team. A game in enemy territory. And trying to do something to help an anemic offence.

Pencer, 24, did not need the additional pressure of being part of a circus.

So it goes some nights, one the rookie will likely remember, but maybe not all for happy reasons.

He had his hands full with a hungry Edmonton defence, but in the second quarter, offensive tackle and veteran Glenn January went out with an ankle injury. Not long after that, tackle Marc Parenteau was also finished for the night with an injury.

Enter defensive tackle Jake Thomas.

Pencer moved out to tackle, Thomas went into his guard spot and Shannon Boatman switched from right tackle to left tackle.

"That's adversity at its highest right there," Pencer said after his first regular-season game, which turned into a 25-7 Bombers loss.

"Injuries are never something anybody plans for. It was a surprise to me. It was nice to be back at tackle but obviously there are a lot of things I need to clean up.

"I'm not getting a lot of reps out there at practice, but the nice thing is I know what I have to do to improve at tackle. I'm starting to get the guard spot down so now I have to get the tackle spot down.

"Overall, it felt OK."

In Pencer's case, he said he was not thrown by any trash talk either before or during the game about this being his debut. Edmonton defensive tackle Odell Willis had hinted Friday about a "welcome," for the rookie.

"Surprisingly not (much said)," he said. "There were a few things said, but no, I thought there was going to be a lot more. I think as soon as he figured out I could play out there, there wasn't too much talking after that.

"We both had our good plays."

Pencer's 2012 was a write-off after an early shoulder injury and he went on the nine-game injured list out of this year's camp.

"Ten weeks, 10 games since I played," he said. "I think the future looks bright. It was just nice getting this under my belt, get a feel for it."

His low point, he said, was last year's injury.

"When you have a season-ending injury, you go highs and lows all the time," he said. "When you hit the weight room (again) you're not nearly as strong as you were so you're starting from scratch. I'd been through that in university so I know what kind of mindset I had to come back with."

Bombers quarterback Max Hall, who played behind the line circus in the second half, could only laugh, in a black comedy sort of way, at the positional misfortune.

"Yeah, that was fun, huh?" Hall said. "It's tough. And No. 2, I didn't get the reps in practice all week so some of the plays I ran out there was the first time I ever read them. All of a sudden we've got new guys in, we've got defensive guys playing offence and the communication was a little bit tough, but to their credit they kept battling.

"They did the best they could. I knew I had to try to get the ball off on time."

Hall said he was barking at nobody.

"I was trying to keep it light, just told the guy, just block the guy in front of you," he said. "To Jake's credit, he did a good job. He did well."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 15, 2013 B3

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