Fans’ predictable pessimism has morphed into hope

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It’s a fool’s errand to draw much in the way of conclusions about a team after just the first day of training camp.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/05/2016 (2375 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s a fool’s errand to draw much in the way of conclusions about a team after just the first day of training camp.

But one thing is already abundantly clear: Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans have bought into what the team’s front office was selling during an off-season that saw the roster torn down and rebuilt from the bottom up.

Bomber Nation turned out in full force for the opening day of training camp at Investors Group Field Sunday morning, filling the couple of sections the team had cordoned off for spectators, with hundreds more standing on the concourse.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Receiver Ryan Smith hauls in a pass in front of defender Julian Posey Sunday.

It was an exceptional turnout for a training camp practice and one that stood in stark contrast to the single-digit crowds the club attracted to practices towards the end of last season, which got so meagre the team even laid off the security guard they paid to staff practices with a month still to go in what went into the books as a 5-13 season.

But what was hopeless then is hopeful now, and it was a loud and boisterous crowd that got its long-awaited first look Sunday at the long list of free agents the club acquired in the off-season.

Running back Andrew Harris is one of those free agents and he said the big crowd dwarfed anything he ever saw in Kamloops, where his former employer — the B.C. Lions — hold their training camps.

“That was awesome. Hopefully they come out like that the rest of training camp, too,” said Harris. “It was good to have that many people out and it just shows the fan support in Winnipeg.”

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said he was impressed by what he saw from the 83 players who took part in the opening practice.

“I thought it was great,” said O’Shea. “They flew around pretty well. I’ll have to watch the film and count the number of errors, but I thought it was a very clean practice…

“There was a lot to like about that.”

Who stood out

Weston Dressler has the more recognizable name but it was Ryan Smith — the other former Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver signed in the off-season — who caught everyone’s eye on the opening day of camp.

He’s not big — officially listed at 5-7 — but Smith is both blistering fast and wildly elusive, qualities that were on display all morning as Smith torched a steady succession of Bombers defensive backs who simply couldn’t keep up.

Memo to Bombers offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice: an offence that isolates Smith in one-on-one coverage is going to make you look like a genius this season.

Honourable mention

Cornerback Matt Bucknor, who’s in a fight to keep his starting job, got off to a great start, pulling down two interceptions. 

Sick bay

Receiver Gerrard Sheppard has a muscle pull and was a non-participant on Day 1. He could be out a while… Non-import LB John Rush is “nicked up,” according to O’Shea… O’Shea revealed the two players the Bombers cut Saturday — imports DL Emmanuel Dieke and R Kris Adams — are injured but have been asked to stick around town while they rehabilitate, suggesting they might be back on the roster yet.

You should have seen

Running backs coach Avon Cobourne had a large yellow foam-padded stick he used to chase down and beat the running backs with during one particularly entertaining drill.

Today’s schedule

10 a.m.-12:05 p.m.

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

History

Updated on Sunday, May 29, 2016 7:41 PM CDT: Updates with writethru

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