Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/6/2011 (3862 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A long list of things are going to have to break in favour of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this season if a 4-14 team in 2010 is going to make the playoffs in 2011.
And the oddsmakers, frankly, don't like the chances that all of those things -- QB Buck Pierce's health, the search for a replacement for CFL sack leader Phillip Hunt, RB Fred Reid putting up another huge season, to name just a few -- are going to go Winnipeg's way.
Indeed, the folks at betting site bodog.ca have installed the Bombers as the longest shot on the board to win the Grey Cup this season at 10-1. (Calgary's the favourite at 11-4, followed closely by Montreal at 3-1).
That is the formidable odds confronting the Bombers as they take to the field tonight at Canad Inns Stadium, where they will face the Toronto Argonauts in the second and final pre-season game for both teams.
On a team full of question marks, some answers should finally begin to emerge this evening as Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice gets one final look at his roster before deciding who he will take into battle when the Bombers' regular season begins July 1 in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats.
LaPolice will have to have his 46-man roster set by the CFL deadline of 2 p.m. this Saturday and the second-year Bombers head coach said Wednesday there are still plenty of players on the current 72-man roster who can secure -- or lose -- jobs based on their performance against the Argos tonight.
"I wouldn't get into who," LaPolice told a news conference, "but there's a lot of guys competing."
Doug Brown is not among them. Brown will begin his 11th CFL season as the starting defensive tackle for the Bombers regardless of how he performs tonight. And Brown believes that while many, many things must go his team's way this season -- including finding a capable replacement for Hunt along the defensive line he patrols -- the Bombers may finally also have some football karma on their side.
"I think we're overdue for exactly that. I think we've had every plight and misfortune befall us last year and I think it's high time for us to finally catch some breaks," Brown said Wednesday. "Granted, with hard work comes success and you can't go out there just hoping and waiting for things to happen.
"You have to make things happen. But at the same time, after a year (in 2010) where we went through four quarterbacks... and losing so many close games, I think it's our turn to catch some breaks."
While no one has yet stepped forward at the defensive end position with the kind of presence Hunt had, the Bombers coaching staff have been impressed this pre-season with the work of several candidates -- Kenny Mainor, Remond Willis and Jason Vega -- and will be watching those men very closely again tonight.
But no one will be watched more closely than Pierce, who will make his long-awaited return to Canad Inns Stadium tonight amidst a general consensus that whatever else breaks the Bombers' way this season, it all must begin with Buck Pierce not breaking.
The Bombers training staff has checked records and believe that no professional quarterback has ever successfully returned to play again after dislocating an elbow on a throwing arm, as Pierce will attempt to do tonight.
And so that sound you hear tonight the first time Pierce takes a lick? That will be the Sound of Silence -- not the Simon and Garfunkel song, but rather the sound of an entire stadium holding its breath.
"We're all excited to go out there and play. It's been a long time, especially for me," Pierce told reporters Wednesday. "I'm excited."
Finally, amidst all the things the Bombers need to be different this season, there is also one thing they need to be exactly the same -- Fred Reid. The Bombers running back led the CFL in rushing in 2010 with 1,396 yards and a repeat performance this season -- coupled with a healthy Pierce and a tantalizing and improved receiving corps -- would go a long way to getting the Bombers the few extra points they need to be on the winning side this season of all those close games they lost last year.
It is a lot to ask of Reid to repeat last year's performance, but he said Wednesday he feels capable of meeting the challenge.
"I feel like a young man coming into this season," said Reid, 29. "I had a good off-season of working out and I feel like I'm coming in here a little stronger and a little faster. I just want to get out there."
Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.