Flanders eager to hit field

Utility player could see his first game action of the year in Banjo Bowl

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By any measure, Timothy Flanders is a valuable, versatile guy.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/09/2018 (1434 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

By any measure, Timothy Flanders is a valuable, versatile guy.

You might also say he’s among the most underused assets on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ roster.

The nimble 26-year-old running back/slotback from Midwest City, Okla., is expected to play his first game of 2018 in today’s Banjo Bowl. It will be his 18th appearance in a Blue and Gold uniform since joining the team in 2016. And he can’t wait.

ANDREW RYAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Timothy Flanders racked up 460 total yards and four touchdowns last season, but has yet to see any game action this year.

“If I do play, I hope I get a chance to capitalize on what I did last year and add that dynamic back into our offence again,” Flanders said after Friday’s walk-through in preparation for the Banjo Bowl.

Time on the practice roster has been trying for Flanders, who rushed for 254 yards on 48 carries and caught 26 passes for 206 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games last season. Everywhere he looks, Winnipeg has depth.

Canadians Andrew Harris and Kienan LaFrance have the tailback position locked up and veterans Nic Demski and Weston Dressler have been fixtures at slotback.

“It’s just been real hard, actually. I try to stick to a schedule, try to get to my routine,” Flanders said. “I try not to think about how the roster is going to shake out this week, next week.

“But its been hard for me, especially because I’m a competitor and I want to play. I can help this offence, I can help this team in many different ways, so for me just to be standing there watching, instead of being in there, it’s been pretty hard.”

The continued absence of an injured Dressler has made Flanders an option for the Banjo Bowl. Coincidentally, the career running back’s first start at slotback came during the Labour Day Classic against the Roughriders in 2017 when he caught seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown.

Despite the stress of an uncertain playing situation, Flanders gets strength and comfort from daily phone calls from his four-year-old son, Jaden, who is back home in Texas.

“I talk to my son every day,” Flanders said. “That’s the big key. He was up here the first half of the season, all summer really.

“Even last year when I was playing, he was always tuning in and saying, ‘Daddy, I saw you on the TV screen!’ It really keeps me going.”

While Flanders has persevered without complaint on the practice field, Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols hasn’t forgotten about him.

“Every time he’s had the opportunity to play, he’s made big-time plays for us,” Nichols said. “And he’s a special talent. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out where he can be a week-in and week-out player, with the way our roster is built. But it’s unbelievable. He understands his role and when he gets his opportunity he’s fully ready.

“He comes to every meeting, every practice and goes full-tilt. If we need scout team at any position, he’s the first one who jumps out there and gives the defence a good look. When or if he’s called upon, he’s a big-time playmaker that can definitely make a difference.”

The Blue Bombers, entrenched in a three-game losing streak, could use a difference-maker for their struggling passing game. And Flanders fits in just about anywhere.

“He pretty well knows all the positions,” head coach Mike O’Shea said. “You’ll certainly see him on special teams. How many touches he gets on offence, we’ll see.”

NOTEWORTHY: the Blue Bombers released quarterback Alex Ross Friday. Ross, who started the season as a top candidate to fill the club’s No. 2 job, had recently been on the six-game injured list.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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