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This article was published 31/5/2018 (500 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Linebacker Adam Bighill was named a CFL all-star four times and a West Division all-star in all but one of his six seasons with the B.C. Lions.
The early pre-season reviews suggest the 29-year-old American, who returned to Canada earlier this month after a year away in the NFL, is still a high-level performer.
"Nothing’s surprised us," Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea said after the Blue Bombers completed Day 12 of training camp Thursday afternoon.
"I think everybody in the CFL has known from the start that Adam Bighill’s a physically talented, tough football player and over time he develops into a guy who takes all his experiences and is able to draw upon them in games.
"He’s got that ability to grow his football IQ and he grows into a leader. None of this is surprising at all."
Bighill, recently released by the New Orleans Saints, signed a one-year free-agent deal with Winnipeg several days into training camp. Tonight, the 5-10, 230-pounder is expected to play about two quarters of the Blue Bombers’ first pre-season game against the visiting Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field.
"The week’s been great," said Bighill, who has slotted in as the middle linebacker, a position filled primarily by the now-departed Canadian Sam Hurl in 2017.
"First of all, I came in getting comfortable with the guys. It’s a great locker room. It was really easy to fit in, come out here and make plays. The learning curve was not very big for me to come in and get this defence down and play fast.
"As far as terminology, you’ve gotta pick up, ‘How are we communicating, when are we calling certain things?’ Those little details you’ve gotta pick up and learn and with the week and a bit I’ve been here, it hasn’t been a big challenge."
The timing of Bighill’s signing may have been a surprise, but it hasn’t dampened expectations. Winnipeg fans hope he can help transform the defence into an elite unit.
"I’ve seen that in the media, but you know what, I always put the most pressure on myself," Bighill said.
"I always want to perform to the best of my ability. I want to be the best player I can be and in order to do that, I put in the work. I put in the study of the game, I watch the tape, I do the training, I do the recovery and therefore I’m confident I can go out there and perform because I’ve done the work.
"Part of being a leader is elevating the people around you and their level of play. I do that leading by action, also by making sure, ‘Hey, we’re all on the same page and we can play fast.’"
O’Shea expects the transition from the NFL to be seamless.
"Is it going to be transforming?" O’Shea said.
"I think over time he’s going to make everybody around him better, including myself. He’s an interesting guy to talk to. He thinks the game really well and likes talking about it and it’s always fun having players like that."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.