December 16, 2019

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Bombers test out free-agent players ahead of main camp

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice and head coach Mike O’Shea are at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla to work out some of the team's American prospects in preparation for the start of Bombers training camp next month.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice and head coach Mike O’Shea are at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla to work out some of the team's American prospects in preparation for the start of Bombers training camp next month.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/4/2019 (235 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are in the heart of football country this week to get up close and personal with the best American prospects on their protected list as they prep for the start of training camp next month.

"The biggest thing is to find out what kind of physical shape these players are in, some guys have just gotten out of football," Danny McManus, Bombers assistant general manager and director of U.S. scouting, said via telephone from the team’s temporary headquarters at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., on Wednesday morning.

"They might have been playing in the defunct AAF or just coming out of college, and some guys have been out for a year or two. So you want to see what kind of shape they’re in — football wise — and see how they take instruction from the coaches."

The CFL club has a large portion of its braintrust in Florida to oversee the camp, which began with preliminary workouts Tuesday to set the stage for the main mini-camp on Wednesday and today. General manager Kyle Walters; offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice; head coach Mike O’Shea; defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall; Ryan Rigmaiden, director of college scouting; Ted Goveia, assistant GM/director of player personnel; and head athletic therapist Al Couture are all on hand.

Since the workouts are of the unpadded variety, there are no linemen present at the event. Instead, 15 defensive backs, including the recently signed Malik Boynton, four linebackers, three quarterbacks, three running backs and 15 wide receivers will be on the field.

Four players from Tuesday’s sessions, including ex-Fordham quarterback Kevin Anderson, received invitations to extend their stay for the two-day mini-camp.

How quickly these newcomers to the Canadian game process information will be critical to their fate. Of the 40 players in camp, roughly half will make the trek north for training camp. What’s more, the club must be down to 75 players prior to the league’s April 30 deadline.

"We had meetings last night and inserted a bunch of concepts, so now we’re going to take it down onto the field," McManus said. "Who can process that and take it from the meeting room to the football field and execute what the coaches are looking for. And finally, who’s making plays."

It is also crucial to find players with skill sets that suit the playing style O’Shea and his coaching staff are looking for.

"You’re still looking for athletic guys who can do the things that need to be done to play in the CFL," McManus said. "Sometimes, a guy doesn’t fit what the coaches are looking for, and that’s where you’ve gotta get that mesh. Our job is to bring the guys that closely fit what the coaches are looking for and then it’s the coaches’ job, if that guy does fit, to specialize and help them get their concepts down.

"That’s where it’s at now. But you’re looking for athletes, guys that can make plays and be a difference-maker on game day."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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