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This article was published 11/2/2011 (1965 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THIS one stings. Winnipeg Blue Bomber GM Joe Mack is man enough to admit that. It stings like getting kicked in the nether regions and stomped on while curled up in the fetal position.
And so on a day in which the Bombers announced the signings of four players, including prospective free agents Dorian Smith and Jon Oosterhuis, it is the departure of gifted defensive end Phillip Hunt to the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles that dominated discussions on Maroons Road Friday.
And you can bet those discussions were sprinkled with enough curse words to make a Hell's Angel blush.
"It hurts. I'll probably cry all weekend... and I'm not being facetious," said Mack of Hunt's exit. "Phillip's a great guy. He played every down. He played his heart out and you could make the case he was as valuable as any defensive player in the league this year. So sure it hurts. It'll be tough to replace him.
"We were real aggressive to try and sign him before he left and it was touch and go. We had a very attractive, lucrative offer on the table for him.
"As much as we hate to lose him, I wish the best for him and his family."
Hunt, who led the CFL with 16 sacks last season, signed with the Eagles after working out for five NFL teams, including Minnesota, Cleveland, Houston and New England. Although the looming NFL labour war was a concern and he wouldn't reveal the size of his signing bonus, Hunt said it was ultimately the opportunity that mattered most.
"This is something I've thought about my whole life," Hunt said when reached by the Free Press Friday after taking his physical with the Eagles. "I've always had dreams and aspirations to play in the NFL and it's finally come true. I'm really not focusing on the money. This is a great opportunity for me to take care of my family and support them.
"I appreciate the opportunity the Bombers gave me and the opportunity that's in front of me right now with the Eagles. I'm just so excited."
Mack said he and director of player personnel Ken Moll will step up their search for another pass-rushing specialist. But it's also possible the team may take a look at Smith at that position. He was an All-Pac 10 Conference all-star playing end for Oregon State in 2007 and registered 14 sacks playing primarily tackle for the Bombers in the last two seasons.
"I sure can play end," said Smith who was Hunt's roomate last year. "I was kind of a beast in college at defensive end. I'll have to call my coaches and see if maybe I have to lose a couple of pounds for this season.
"I've been on a little bit of a vacation here in L.A. and I've got this firefighter for a friend who has me running up all these mountains. That'll help me out a little bit to trim down some weight.
"We were thinking we might just wait and test (free agency) out. But I'm a loyal person and Winnipeg gave me my first shot to play professional ball and I have a lot of ties there and appreciated that."
Oosterhuis returns for his tenth season as a Bomber. Originally drafted as a defensive lineman, he spent the first seven years of his career on the defensive side of the ball before switching to fullback in 2009.
The Bombers also announced the signing of import offensive lineman Marlon Winn, who joined the club's practice roster last August, and running back Alex Henderson.
Winn (6-foot-6, 325, Texas Tech) will provide the club depth, as it's all but a given they will go with two imports at the offensive tackle position, especially after Alex Gauthier signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday.
Henderson (5-foot-10, 200, Northern Arizona) was one of the top running backs in school history and a three-time All-Big Sky selection. He attended training camp with the St. Louis Rams last season.