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This article was published 31/5/2018 (736 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg receiver hopeful Corey Washington will be a long way from home and playing with a heavy heart when he suits up for the Blue Bombers in a pre-season CFL game against the Edmonton Eskimos tonight.
Adjusting to the game in a strange country has been mostly routine. The biggest issue for the 26-year-old from Charleston, S.C., is he is still grieving the death of his grandmother, Betty Polite.
Polite, a diabetic who raised her grandson from the time he was two years old, was 74 when she died last summer. Washington attended her funeral on Aug. 8, the same day the Kansas City Chiefs released him from their training camp roster.
"This will be my first game I played without having my grandmother since I started playing football. It’s an emotional point," he said Thursday.
The product of tiny Newberry College has made eight stops in the NFL since he signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2014, including stints with the Washington Redskins, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys.
He made a breakthrough in 2014 with the Giants, dressing for 15 games and catching five passes for 52 yards and one touchdown. But that success was fleeting and it’s been practice roster duty ever since.
Following his grandmother’s death, the 6-4, 215-pounder finally felt ready to carve out a career in Canada and he finally accepted Winnipeg’s offer prior to the 2018 season.
"I’m still dealing with it," he said.
"A year before she passed, she lost her husband, which is my granddaddy. I was still getting over that and then she left and it was crazy. I’m still an emotional wreck. I’m still going through it."
Washington has worked out mainly as a slotback, but also expects to see action as a wideout.
"It’s a great opportunity for me," he said. "It’s fun. I’m able to play football again after being out a whole year and I’m just ready to get after it. I’m glad for a second chance at football.
"Camp is going great so far. I adapted real quick and I got the terminology and everything down," Washington said. "Just ready to go out and put it out on the field."
Washington missed three days of training camp to tend to an injury, but has performed well, putting his size and athleticism on display.
"He looked good, missed a few practices and came back and looked really good," Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea said. "I think he got worn down a little bit and since he’s given his legs a little bit of a break, he flying again, he’s catching footballs, he’s where he’s supposed to be."
YOUTH MOVEMENT: the arrival of young Canadian receivers such as Nic Demski, Rashaun Simonise, Daniel Petermann, Drew Wolitarsky and Tylor Henry could have a lasting affect on the Winnipeg offence.
Demski and Wolitarsky are likely to begin 2018 in the starting lineup.
"I think they’re a talented group, they really are," O’Shea said. "I don’t know that they’re just competing against each other. They’re competing for a spot and playing time, they’re competing on special teams. I’m not limiting them to competing for what was called a national spot."
No. 1 quarterback Matt Nichols gave the Canucks his stamp of approval.
"Overall, I think our Canadian depth is very good," Nichols said. "A few guys we just drafted are picking it up quickly and starting to get the hang of it. They’ve come a long way since Day 1. Obviously, Drew has a great handle on the offence, being here for most of the last year. That’s obviously helped."
NOTEWORTHY: the Eskimos are bringing a youth-laden roster to Winnipeg for their second and final pre-season tilt.
Veterans such as quarterbacks Mike Reilly and Kevin Glenn, all-star defensive tackle Almondo Sewell, running back C.J. Gable, defensive back Aaron Grymes, linebackers J.C. Sherritt and Adam Konar and wide receiver Derel Walker are not expected to play.
Zach Kline, who spent most of 2017 on the practice roster, could get the start at quarterback.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
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