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Coach K won't say if Printers his type

But ex-Ticat welcome at tryouts, Kelly says

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/3/2009 (3069 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

He's been labelled a clubhouse cancer and a prima donna. And if you were to paint a picture to best describe quarterback Casey Printers' days with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, it would almost certainly involve a mushroom cloud, an enormous crater and several kilometres of scorched earth.

And now, just a few weeks after vehemently denying any interest in his services, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are tap-dancing around weekend reports emanating from a Vancouver radio station that Printers is suddenly in their plans.

"It's beyond me how this story has taken on a life of it's own," head coach Mike Kelly said from San Diego, where the Bombers conducted a free-agent tryout camp on the weekend. "Right now, we're just looking for good players (the club has two more camps scheduled in the next month). These are open tryouts. Joe Montana might walk out and say, 'Hey, I want to throw the ball around' and we'll say, 'OK, let's see what you got.'

"I can't turn anybody away from these workouts."

That may be true, but despite his considerable skill set and his glowing credentials -- Printers was the CFL's Most Outstanding Player in 2004 -- the Bombers have until this point repeatedly spit out a polite "no thanks" when his name popped up in recent weeks. They vehemently denied interest in him in January when rumours surfaced that Printers would be traded to the Bombers for Kevin Glenn. And last month, when Printers was cut adrift by the Ticats, the Bombers took a pass on him as well.

But asked Monday if Printers could be in the Bombers' future, Kelly said:

"I don't know how to answer that. But circumstances have changed. We can use Kevin Glenn as an example. Hamilton wasn't willing to accept the contract Kevin already had. So, once a trade agreement was not able to be reached, we cut him free (and he subsequently signed in Hamilton). Now we're in a situation where I think Casey would be more attractive to the other seven teams in the league because he doesn't have the contract anymore.

"I've never coached Casey, I've never spoken with Casey, I don't know Casey. If Casey comes out to our camp, well, I'd be cheating myself, I'd be cheating Casey and I'd be cheating the organization by not at least keeping an open mind about guys."

Kelly did insist on this important fact, however: It's one thing to be welcomed to an off-season free-agent camp; it's quite another to have a signed deal that brings you to the main training camp in June.

"It's not even close," Kelly said. "If they show up at one of these workouts, it means they're just another guy looking for a job. When we're at these tryouts down here, we're Monster.com. It's like a job fair. He's a guy on the street right now. That's what this month is all about: looking at guys on the street."

The Bombers remain committed to newcomer Stefan LeFors -- acquired from Edmonton in January and ready for prime time, according to Kelly -- as well as holdover QBs Ryan Dinwiddie and Bryan Randall. Printers, who doesn't turn 28 until May, was just 1-15 as a starter in his Ticat days after signing there in 2007. The Bombers were one of his suitors then. Now, he will have to play for considerably less than the roughly $450,000 he pulled down in Hamilton last year.

But that's assuming there would be contract discussions with the Bombers. Worth noting here is that Kelly, along with GM John Murphy and director of football operations Ross Hodgkinson, held a four-hour salary-management meeting Sunday night.

Coincidence?

"There has not been one word of negotiation with Casey. I've never talked to his agent," Kelly said. "If he shows up (at a free-agent camp), I'll toss him a ball that says 'CFL' on the side of it and I'll say, 'Throw it to that guy.' And if he throws it to the wrong guy, then maybe he's not what we're looking for."

Pressed further for an acknowledgment that Printers at least appears to be a bigger blip on the Bombers' radar screen, Kelly soft-shoed around that question with: "I'm not even ready to go there yet. I would say if we're on the field and the gate is open, he's welcome to walk through the gate and come out on the field with us. After that, it's pure speculation.

"I just find it bizarre we're even having this long a conversation about it."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

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