Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bombers play the weighting game

Some bulk up, some trim down but goal is the same: faster, stronger, better

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Defensive lineman Bryant Turner said going 6-12 in 2012 was the wake-up call the Bombers needed to hit the gym hard in the off-season.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Defensive lineman Bryant Turner said going 6-12 in 2012 was the wake-up call the Bombers needed to hit the gym hard in the off-season. Photo Store

Some gained weight. Others lost it.

But whichever route they chose -- getting smaller to get quicker or or getting bigger to get stronger -- it seems most veterans of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers reported for training camp on Saturday having changed something about themselves over the course of the winter.

Take veteran centre Justin Sorensen, for instance, who reported for his physical at Investors Group Field on Saturday a full 30 pounds lighter (from 340 to 310) and 8 per cent leaner than he was at this time last year.

Sorensen said he wanted to be lighter on his feet and quicker with his footwork this year -- just like the man who will line up behind him, QB Buck Pierce, who dropped 25 pounds of his own over the winter.

"I think, individually, as well as team-wise, we thought to ourselves in our heads, Alright, this off-season is important -- we need to trim down, we need to get bigger, we need to get stronger so that we can go out and be more successful this year," said Sorensen.

On the flip side, both cornerback Jovon Johnson and tailback Chad Simpson reported deliberately gaining weight so they could be stronger this year.

'I think we have a lot to prove from last year'

-- Bombers defensive lineman Bryant Turner

Johnson said he put on an extra three to four pounds of what appears to be nothing but muscle.

"The focus point of my off-season was to train -- to be bigger, stronger and faster than I was in previous years," Johnson said.

"I definitely feel faster and definitely feel more explosive."

Johnson said a 6-12 season in 2012 after a Grey Cup appearance in 2011 served as a cold wakeup call for his team this winter.

"We all trained a lot harder and refocused ourselves," said Johnson. "Coming off 2011, we were sky-high riding the Cloud 9. Going into 2012, we thought things were going to be easy for us to go out and be the same team that we were...

"But things happened and we didn't perform the way we expected last year... We definitely expect to go out and be more like 2011 than 2012."

Simpson, who had a sensational rookie season, reported in yesterday at 205 pounds, 13 more than he carried last season.

He said the extra weight was deliberate and more like what he used to carry when he played in the NFL.

But the biggest change for Simpson in the off-season was what he described as "some new wheels."

Simpson said he had some custom-made orthotic shoe inserts made in the off-season he said have him walking and running pain-free after a 2012 season that saw him dogged with a foot problem all year.

"It's way better," Simpson said, predicting big things for himself this season.

"Look what I did last year with one foot," said Simpson, who rushed for 1,039 yards in 2012. "You've got to think a guy can do better with two."

Defensive lineman Bryant Turner said the motivation for all the beefed-up off-season training regimens was simple.

"I think we have a lot to prove from last year," Turner said.

EXTRA POINTS: Single game tickets for all 2013 Bombers home games went on sale on Saturday morning. There were less than 2,000 tickets remaining for the June 27 home opener by early afternoon.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 2, 2013 B5

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