Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Thunder struck

Bombers cut RB Smith, stick with younger, cheaper Lavarus Giles

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Throw a goalie mask on his mug, slap a chainsaw in one hand and a blood-stained machete in the other and Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike Kelly could star in his very own horror flick.

A Nightmare on Maroons Road, perhaps? The Bomber Roster Chainsaw Massacre?


The first-year boss continued his vicious and gory attack on what was the 2008 Bombers with the release of 12 players on Thursday, including two that started games for the club last season -- running back Joe Smith and offensive lineman Matt O'Meara. Also chopped were defensive backs Patrick Body, Ronyell Whitaker and Nick Kordic, receiver Terry Firr, O-linemen Jean-Francois Morin-Roberge and Thaddeus Coleman, linebackers Jasper Johnson and Neil Ternovatsky and defensive ends and Montez Murphy and Chase Ortiz.

This latest swath of cuts, unofficially, brings the total number of players cut, traded or retired from last year's squad to a whopping 30.

That's 3-0, people, as in thirty.

"We knew this 'plan of action' was causing a stir but we had a good feel for the players that we brought in here," said Kelly Thursday after all CFL teams declared their 46-man rosters. "We're on task. I like our athleticism across the board, now it's up to us as a coaching staff to continue to teach, to continue to push and mould this group into something we're all looking for.

"We're not anywhere near there yet, but now we at least have a lump of clay on the wheel."

That 'lump of clay' still to be shaped won't include Smith, the 2007 CFL rushing champion who was acquired last September from the B.C. Lions in the blockbuster trade that sent Charles Roberts west. Smith appeared in eight games for the Bombers last year while sharing the backfield with Fred Reid, rumbling for 381 yards on 69 carries and two touchdowns.

But with Reid a lock and the stellar play of rookie Lavarus Giles in the pre-season -- three TDs and a juicy 9.15-yards per carry average -- plus the upside of Yvenson Bernard, the 29-year-old Smith found himself at the bottom of a crowded depth chart. Interestingly, the club reworked his contract but did pay him a bonus upon his arrival at training camp, meaning he did get a chunk of his '09 salary up front.

The Bombers did attempt to deal Smith, but could not find a willing partner.

"We called around, but this isn't a great time to trade," said Kelly. "People know you're going to let people go right now. I think there's a perception out there that you can always trade everybody but that isn't the case. We've tried to trade other players that we released, but there were no biters so you let them go. That's just part of the business.

"I've said all along that if you can't practise it's tough for us to evaluate you. Joe missed a couple days of practice, but the overriding thing is we had younger players perform very, very well for us. We're excited about our young players right now. I think the roster has 11 rookies on it. They're guys who showed they can play at this level and now we're going to go let them play.

"We gave Joe plenty of opportunity. He was at practice every day. He could have fought through some things. I talked to him on the phone and said, 'Here's what we're going to do...' He said 'OK' and hung up."

In addition to declaring their 46-man roster (42 will be active for next week's opener in Edmonton; four placed on the reserve list) the Bombers listed defensive tackle Tyrone Williams, cornerback James Johnson and defensive back Steven Holness as injured while linebacker Siddeeq Shabazz remains on the disabled list.

The Bombers will likely declare their seven-player practice roster within the next day or so, meaning a good chunk of those released may remain in blue and gold this season.

"Will there be growing pains? Sure. Absolutely," Kelly said when describing his squad. "But at the same time I think we're pointed in the right direction and it's because of these young guys and the energy they've brought here."


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2009 C1

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