December 12, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
The last time the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won a football game was -- perhaps not coincidentally -- also the last time defensive lineman Bryant Turner played for the Bombers.
Turner's three sacks in a 19-11 Bombers win in Montreal over the Alouettes on July 4 were almost as memorable as the high drama that played out after that game, as teammates gathered around Turner's stretcher on the Bombers sideline and prayed for him as he struggled to breathe.
Turner's breathing problems that night proved to be a relatively rare case of strained chest ligaments and while he's still not entirely recovered, Turner said Tuesday following Bombers practice at Investors Group Field his team needs him more right now than he needs more time to heal.
"Especially because we're 1-3. If we were 3-1, I'd take another week if I could," said Turner. "But 1-3, you feel like you can help your team and it's a must-do type of thing."
Now, while Winnipeg's problems run much, much deeper than the interior of their defensive line, the return of Turner at tackle can only help his team's cause as they prepare this week to face the 3-1 Calgary Stampeders Friday night at Investors Group Field.
-- Bombers coach Tim Burke
Those three sacks Turner recorded in that one game in Montreal have him still tied for fifth in the league in sacks, despite the fact he's only played in two of his team's four games this season.
But it's Turner's ability to fill the running lanes that make his return particularly fortuitous this week as the Bombers try to figure out how to do something that has vexed defences across the CFL the past couple years -- stop Calgary tailback Jon Cornish.
"He's very important, especially in this game plan against Calgary because they're a very good run team," Bombers head coach Tim Burke said Tuesday of Turner.
"Just in our scheme, Turner frees us up to do some things. He's obviously a really good pass rusher on top of it, but certainly against the run game he can really help us."
The final decision on whether Turner will play won't likely be made until Friday. That's mostly because there is some concern he could still have a setback, as he did in his first practice back on Monday when he pulled himself out about halfway through after he started feeling pain again.
But Turner was optimistic on Tuesday that wouldn't happen again.
"It felt a lot better today," Turner said of his chest. "It was more durable and I could battle through it."
Meanwhile, Burke said the revolving door at the team's strong-side linebacker (SAM) position -- which they now call nickelback -- continues to spin.
With Desia Dunn and Johnny Sears Jr. out with injuries, Burke said the position will be played this week by DB Demond Washington, who had some success in briefly playing that spot last year. Washington will be replaced at defensive back this week by Marty Markett, who will be making his first start.
The Bombers have had nothing but trouble filling the SAM position since they cut Clint Kent coming out of training camp in 2012 and Burke was asked if it is starting to feel like the position is cursed on the Bombers.
"It sure seems like it, right?," said Burke. "Just look -- this year alone we've had three guys at that position... That's just the way the football universe works sometimes -- you just seem to get injuries at one position."
Despite the club's problems filling the SAM position, Burke said his team had no interest in linebacker Brandon Isaac, who was cut by the Argos on Tuesday and knows the position well.
Isaac is expected in any event to end up in Hamilton, who released LB Markeith Knowlton later on Tuesday. Knowlton -- the 2010 CFL defensive player of the year -- also has experience at the SAM position.
The Bombers wouldn't say last night if they were interested in Knowlton's services.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 24, 2013 D3