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This article was published 30/10/2019 (554 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The two biggest winners on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers used the attention they received from their award nominations to give support to a teammate they feel had been snubbed by local voters.
On Wednesday, the CFL announced each of the nine clubs’ individual award nominees, and Bombers running back Andrew Harris did not earn enough votes to warrant a selection. The reason Harris, who is set to claim a third-straight rushing title with 1,380 yards on 225 carries, was snubbed was because he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in July, resulting in a two-game suspension served in September.
Prior to his failed test, Harris was in serious contention for most outstanding player and most outstanding Canadian. But those nods were instead given to defensive end Willie Jefferson and fullback Mike Miller, respectively.
Miller, who is also the team’s nominee for most outstanding special-teams player after finishing tied with teammate Kerfalla Exume for second in the CFL with 25 tackles, did not attend Wednesday’s media availability. He did, however, take the time to issue this statement through the Bombers:
"It is my honour to be named the most outstanding special teams player for the Bombers, but I feel I must speak out in support of Andrew Harris as our team’s most outstanding Canadian," the statement read. "Andrew is one of the true leaders on our team and one of the best players in the history of the Canadian Football League, and it is a shame he is not being recognized after such a sensational season. I will accept the Canadian nomination on Andrew’s behalf, but do so reluctantly and while completely disagreeing with his omission."
Jefferson was also nominated for a pair of awards, including the Bombers’ most outstanding defensive player. He made his feelings about Harris known over social media before addressing reporters, issuing a comment over Twitter that supported Miller’s statement.
"I feel the same way when it comes to the MOP!!!," tweeted Jefferson, who recorded 16 pass knockdowns, a CFL record for linemen, along with a team-high 12 sacks, six forced fumbles and one interception this season. "I know I put in lots of work on my side of the ball but Andrew has overcome and accomplished so much this year it’s crazy how he didn’t get this award."
Jefferson was notably less animated in his response to reporters, though he did mention he hoped to win the most outstanding player award in honour of Harris.
"Andrew put in a lot of work this year. He’s achieved a lot of accolades this year, career-wise, and the reason why he didn’t get nominated was because the circumstance. It is what it is with him," he said. "I’m happy to be able to step up and take that award. If I win it, it’s another accolade for me to put on my mantel. But if I do win it, I’m going to most definitely share it with Andrew."
Left tackle Stanley Bryant was named the club’s most outstanding offensive lineman and will be in contention to earn the league-wide award for the third straight season. Kenny Lawler, who paced all Bombers receivers with 637 yards and added four touchdowns, was named the team’s most outstanding rookie.
"I think it’s just being consistent and staying healthy," Bryant said about his continued success. "I’ve been blessed to not miss a game since I’ve been in Winnipeg and I’ve been able to be part of the building process of bringing this organization back up to a winning team and I’m just blessed to be able to do that."
The CFL doesn’t have a rule in place on the eligibility of players who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs. In the NFL, a player who fails a drug test is not eligible to win any regular-season awards.
Bryant and Jefferson were asked if the league should use the Harris situation as an example to form a new rule, but neither seemed all that interested in going there.
"That’s not for me to agree upon or not to agree upon" Jefferson said.
"I’m not going to say that a rule needs to be in place but I mean it’s just something the league will have to decide on," Bryant added.
The voting process for each city includes five ballots, with each team’s head coach, as well as four local members of the Football Reporters of Canada (FRC), issuing a vote. In Winnipeg, the voters are head coach Mike O’Shea, Bob Irving (CJOB), Ted Wyman (Winnipeg Sun), Darrin Bauming (TSN 1290) and Jeff Hamilton (Winnipeg Free Press).
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.