TIM Burke will soon be adding another familiar face to his Winnipeg Blue Bomber coaching staff.
Not long after Craig Dickenson had tendered his resignation as the special-teams coach with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, word spread quickly that he would be heading east to join the Bombers. The club wouldn't confirm Dickenson's hiring, offering "no comment as of right now." But a CFL source said the deal is still being finalized and it will get done.
Riders GM Brendan Taman told reporters in Regina he thought Dickenson's decision came because he couldn't commit to being in Saskatchewan as much as the team had asked during the winter. There were also reports Dickenson is building a home in Montana and wanted more time off in the off-season.
Dickenson is the brother of Calgary Stampeder offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson and considered one of the best special-teams coaches in the CFL. He replaces Kyle Walters, who has been bumped up to assistant GM, and rejoins Burke and defensive co-ordinator Casey Creehan. The three had previously worked together in Calgary.
-- TWO MORE LOCKED UP: The Bombers announced Thursday a contract extension for placekicker Justin Palardy and the re-signing of versatile defensive back/linebacker Johnny Sears, who was scheduled to become a free agent next month. Both deals were registered with the league office before the start of 2013, meaning the signing bonuses will count against the 2012 salary cap.
Sears (6-1, 192, Eastern Michigan) started 14 games last year, finishing with 50 tackles, six special-teams tackles and three interceptions.
"I really like Johnny Sears as a person and a player," said Bomber GM Joe Mack. "He has great versatility and he's really tough. He actually played the whole game in Hamilton with a torn ACL. He's a consummate professional for us and we're happy to have him back. I'm disappointed he had the knee injury, but we believe he'll be back for the start of the season.
"He might have got a shot in the NFL if it wasn't for the knee but we're happy to have him back because of how he conducts himself and his production. We were willing to take the risk with the knee because we like him that much."
Palardy (6-0, 201, Saint Mary's) is coming off a spectacular season in which he connected on 39 of 45 field-goal attempts (86.7 per cent), tying the single-season field-goal percentage club record he set in 2010.
The Bombers now have seven remaining free agents still unsigned: defensive backs Deon Beasely and Jonathan Hefney, linebacker Marcellus Bowman, receiver Clarence Denmark and defensive linemen Jason Vega, Fernand Kashama and Bryant Turner. However, the club seems destined to lose Vega to the NFL -- he worked out with the New England Patriots before the new year and had other sessions planned, according to his agent David Weinshel.
Bowman, meanwhile, has drawn interest from the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts.
"I had conversations with all our free agents before they left (at the end of the season)," Mack said. "I've reached out to all their agents. It's understandable, but the American players have a dream to try the NFL and we'll have to go through the process to see if they have any NFL interest and then adjust as we go along. They have all expressed interest in coming back to Winnipeg, we'll just have to see how much interest they have in the NFL.
"It's a balancing act for me, because obviously I have a vested interest in them coming back to Winnipeg but also having worked in the NFL for a long time I try to say to them that if they don't get a substantial signing bonus you have to ask yourself how much interest they have in you. If you only get $5,000-10,000 to sign, you have to live off that in training camp and now you've lost at least half of your CFL salary and, potentially, if the roster is set, the whole year of salary. That's a risk they are taking if they try that."
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