August 4, 2020

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Flanders proves he's first-class

Dynamic running back makes explosive combo with Harris

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSBombers running back Timothy Flanders sprints during a drill at Tuesday's practice at Investor's Group Field.</p>

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSBombers running back Timothy Flanders sprints during a drill at Tuesday's practice at Investor's Group Field.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/8/2017 (1091 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Timothy Flanders waited patiently during the 2016 CFL campaign for a chance to shine with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and didn’t squander the opportunity when it finally came around.

This season, the 25-year-old import running back has been biding his time and putting the work in on the practice roster — and he was finally rewarded last Friday in Ottawa, joining Andrew Harris in the Bombers’ backfield.

The double attack provided Winnipeg with 83 yards on the ground and helped the club to a thrilling 33-30 come-from-behind triumph over the Redblacks at TD Place Stadium, raising the West Division team’s record to 4-2.

Flanders said he savoured every moment of the contest and craves more of the same.

"Man, it felt good," he said, following practice Tuesday at Investors Group Field.

"That’s a good feeling. When they told me I was actually gonna play, the offensive linemen were excited, the receivers and quarterbacks and guys on defence were all excited for me. My main thing was to go back out there and do what I do best.

"I want to play football. I wasn’t aiming for the practice roster this year. I felt like I showed enough last year to give me an active roster spot. I’m having a lot of fun right now. I’m blessed. I’m just taking it one day at a time."

Winnipeg meets the struggling Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-6) on Saturday night at Tim Hortons Field. Whether or not Harris has company that night behind quarterback Matt Nichols remains to be seen.

Flanders desperately wants to play but hasn’t a clue if his wish will be granted by Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea.

"Who knows what’s gonna happen this week. I really don’t know," said Flanders, who carried the ball three times for 40 yards against the Redblacks.

"I never know. It comes down to ratio, matchups, all that stuff. I can’t speculate.

"I practise as if I am playing. I practise like I always do. And if they tell me I’m playing, OK, then let’s get rolling."

The 5-9, 211-pound rusher from Midwest City, Okla., dressed for the first two games of the ’16 season, but didn’t touch the ball and was then relegated to the practice roster for more than two months. But when Harris went down with an ankle injury in the Banjo Bowl, Flanders was reinstated and instantly made an impression, piling up 102 yards on 19 carries and catching the ball four times for 34 yards in a victory over the Toronto Argonauts.

He played the next four games as well, finishing the season with 281 yards on the ground — including three touchdowns — and another 148 yards through the air.

Flanders, who had a brilliant college career at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Tex., doesn’t view himself as simply an insurance policy.

"I felt so bad that Andrew did get hurt, but at the same time I felt like I was ready to do a good job," he said. "I really did it for my teammates and for the fans — but for me as well, showing what I could do.

"I wanted to help, definitely. Last year, I was like, ‘Man, I should be out there playing, I wanna play, I wanna play,’ and finally I got my chance. I feel like I was prepared for it from the very beginning and it showed."

Winnipeg experimented a few times with both Harris, a non-import, and Flanders on the field at the same time with some success late last season.

That’s a potentially explosive combination, especially against a struggling Ticats defence that has surrendered the most rushing yards (625) of any CFL team.

"They’re playmakers and it makes it incredibly tough on defences because they’re both guys that can go and run every route in the route tree and they can both block, they can both run the ball," Nichols said. "It’s hard for defences to really know what we’re gonna do. They’re both so dynamic, there’s no way you can know what’s coming just because those guys are on the field.

"It’s easy for us to just plug them in because those guys are studious and they understand all of our concepts."

While O’Shea wouldn’t tip his hand on how the backfield will look in Hamilton, he’s clearly fascinated by the potential return of dressing Harris and Flanders.

"You’ve got two highly skilled players who are dangerous with the ball in their hands. They’re three-phase running backs: they block, they can catch, and with that comes running routes, and they can run with the ball.

"What I really like is their willingness to do it together, and their concept of team and belief in winning and what that looks like," O’Shea said, adding "We’ll see. We don’t have to make a decision until Day 3, we’ll see."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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