CALGARY — It was a touching scene likely lost in the chaos last Sunday, as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hung on for a dramatic 20-13 victory in the West final in Regina.
Saskatchewan quarterback Cody Fajardo’s last-ditch attempt to tie the game had ended with a thud, his final pass hitting the crossbar, signalling an end to the Roughriders’ season.
Fajardo went down on the field, overcome with emotion. Bombers defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat came over to console him, patting him on the back and offering a few words before joining his teammates to celebrate. Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea had an interesting take on the gesture Wednesday.
"You know, you spend so many hours a day with these guys. Just to put it bluntly, you just don’t want to spend that much time with a--holes," O’Shea said during his daily media availability.
"So, we fill our room with good character guys. And I don’t know what Jackson said after, you know. But I know that when football players compete, battle out there for a long game, and it’s very physical and it’s tough, there is a certain amount of respect, obviously a lot of respect for each other, at the end of the game when it finishes. And maybe not so much during the season as when there’s a finality to it, you know."
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Jeremiah Masoli goes down with a season-ending torn ACL in late July. Matt Nichols suffers a season-ending shoulder injury in mid-August.
Hamilton and Winnipeg seemingly don’t miss a beat and make it to the Grey Cup. Dane Evans at the helm for the Tiger-Cats, and the two-headed monster of Zach Collaros and Chris Streveler for the Bombers.
So what gives?
Hamilton coach Orlondo Steinauer said depth and development are key, something the Grey Cup finalists have done well.
"You always want to use the next-man-up mentality. However, the quarterback position, I think it’s at a different level. It’s definitely the hardest position to play on the field. So, for us, I ran the scout team last year and I got to work with Dane closely. I just got to watch him as a man, listen to him in the huddle... watch his unwavering support of Jeremiah and just his preparation, and just willingness to do whatever it took to be the best he could be. And I think that’s what we’re seeing currently," Steinauer said.
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When he’s on top of his game, Andrew Harris can be a weapon like no other. And the Winnipeg-born running back will likely end up having a significant say in whether his hometown Bombers succeed or fail this weekend.
After a fairly quiet game in Regina, O’Shea is expecting to see Harris at his best this weekend.
"He’s relentless in his approach. And he does hold players accountable, and he’s got a certain grit and determination that you don’t often see. You’d love every player to have it, but there are only certain players that possess it. I think it’s a great example, his on-field performance and his drive, his ambition to be the best. He does carry a pretty big chip on his shoulder," O’Shea said.
"But until you get a guy in the building, you don’t really know about some of the intangibles. You can ask those questions, but you don’t know if you’re getting the right answers. And I love everything about the guy. I’m very thankful that he’s in our building."
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It’s the storyline that refuses to go away this Grey Cup week.
The crushing hit from Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence on Collaros in the first game of the season propped it’s ugly head once more on Wednesday. For those in need of catching up, Collaros was a Roughrider when Lawrence delivered a blow to his head after he attempted a slide. The impact caused Collaros to reinjure his neck and suffer a concussion, sending his season into a tailspin.
Lawrence served a two-game suspension. Meanwhile, Collaros was traded to the Toronto Argonauts, and then the Bombers, where he became the starter and has led them to three straight wins.
"We had a conversation there after Labour Day and it’s behind us now," Collaros said. "You know, obviously, you’ve got to talk through things any time there is a problem in a friendship or any kind of relationship, right? So, yeah, it’s nice to see us get it behind us."
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.