The Hamilton Tiger-Cats enter Week 1 at far from full strength.
Chris Van Zeyl, who edged out Blue Bombers left tackle Stanley Bryant for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award in 2019, is sidelined with a thumb injury. Star receivers DeVier Posey and Bralon Addison won't be an option for quarterback Jeremiah Masoli as both are on the six-game injured list. The Ticats also feel the sting on defence as Canadian defensive tackle Ted Laurent, a five-time division all-star, is out with a knee issue.
"I couldn't care less who's gonna line up on the other side of the ball," said Bombers star defensive end Willie Jefferson.
"I was hoping it was gonna be Van Zeyl, just so we can get that rematch from 2019. But, whoever lines up is the one who’s gonna get the action tomorrow."
Even with Hamilton's injury woes, Wednesday afternoon saw them as 3½ point favourites despite playing on the road.
"It doesn’t really matter what anyone else out there thinks. If we cared about all that, then we wouldn’t have won a Grey Cup last year with the route that we took and how we did it," said Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill.
"Feel free to count us as underdogs for the entire season for all I care. We’re gonna go out and do what we do."
A hip flexor will prevent veteran weak-side linebacker Kyrie Wilson from suiting up for the Blue and Gold tonight. His replacement is CFL newcomer Jontrell Rocquemore, a 25-year-old out of Utah State who hails from McKinney, Texas.
"Rocque, he’s a great athlete and he’s very sharp. For a young guy, he can process information very well, he diagnoses the playbook very well, he asks very good questions," said Bighill, who will be playing right beside the rookie.
"I think his process is really good with how he diagnoses plays using his eyes, looking at the right things. That’s an important thing against a team like Hamilton that’s gonna give you a lot of misdirection and really play with your eyes. He’s a guy that can flash and make some plays and really surprise some people."
Prior to Wednesday's walkthrough, the Bombers stood on the field and had a private viewing of their 2019 Grey Cup banner and watched a montage video from their championship run that will be shown to fans tonight. The banner was covered back up before the media was allowed inside for practice. Since the team won't be on the field for the ceremony tonight, the club made the decision to give the players and staff a sneak peek.
Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea confirmed Wednesday that veteran Tyler Crapigna will handle placekicking duties while rookie Marc Liegghio will take care of punting and kickoffs. In his five-year CFL career between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts, Crapigna connected on 98 of 115 field goal attempts
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.