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This article was published 31/8/2018 (409 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Chandler Fenner has played in some of the noisiest environments in pro football, but he says spending his formative years in Virginia Beach, Va., provided some of the most important training for thriving in a big-game atmosphere.
"I’m pretty used to being in a hectic environment or loud environment," Fenner said Friday after his Winnipeg Blue Bombers completed preparations for Sunday afternoon’s Labour Day Classic in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
"Growing up, I alway felt like I was in a loud environment. Not a big family, just a loud one. I’m used to being able to focus with the noise and that kind of makes me feel more at home, to have that sense of excitement."
Fenner, who considers Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium and AT&T Stadium in Dallas to be the loudest venues he played in during his five seasons in the NFL, has a simple plan for avoiding mistakes when the Bombers hit the field at Mosaic Stadium, perhaps the noisiest stadium in the CFL.
"Don’t make the situation, don’t make the game bigger than it actually is," said Fenner, who could return to the starting lineup as a linebacker in place of an ailing Maurice Leggett, who missed at least two days of practice this week.
"The way I like to think about it is you are the solution to all your problems. It’s a matter of whether you have the answer. It’s not like you need to do anything more than what you’re capable of doing. It’s just a matter of using your technique, being patient and let the play come to you. Don’t try to do more than you need to do. Do your job.
"When you’re getting too wrapped up, carried away in the moment, you’re losing focus on what your small responsibility is."
A seasoned pro at 28, Fenner admitted he still sometimes feels like he’s losing control during a game.
"The more I play, I realize you have to be calm," he said. "You have to be patient because there’s no point in running all around, because I’ve done that, too... otherwise you can lose control, easily. It’s not hard. The objective of the offence is to confuse you and to get you out of control. That is their job."
OLD VERSUS NEW: the Blue Bombers are 1-3 and have been outscored 130-95 in Labour Day Classic games under the direction of head coach Mike O’Shea.
The move to new Mosaic Stadium in 2017 may have made winning even more difficult task for Winnipeg, which posted a 28-25 win in 2016.
"They’re both loud, but I think the new one is louder," Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols said. "There’s been a few moments in there where you can just tell, it’s just kind of that next level. It’s a beautiful stadium. It was awesome going in there for the first time last year and just seeing it in person."
Backup quarterback Chris Streveler, who has participated in games at hostile Big 10 environments such as Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin, won’t be deterred when he enters the game, normally as part of a third-down package.
"I think no matter what the situation is, communication is going to be important when it’s a loud situation," Streveler said. "Whether it’s first down, third down, second down, we’re going to have to do a great job communicating if we’re going to be successful offensively."
LINEUP SHUFFLE: don’t be surprised to see former NFLer Corey Washington make his CFL debut at receiver Sunday. Washington would replace Ryan Lankford, who filled in for an injured Weston Dressler in Week 11. O’Shea said Dressler’s return remained a possibility.
"We’ll see," O’Shea said of Washington. "He got a significant amount of reps. We haven’t made that decision."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.