August 17, 2019

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Neufeld, Matthews may be MIA for Game 1 of regular season

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols runs through drills during practice on Tuesday.</p>

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols runs through drills during practice on Tuesday.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers could be without two regular starters on offence when they hit the road to play the B.C. Lions in their season opener Saturday night.

Right guard Patrick Neufeld, who didn’t practise throughout training camp, and receiver Chris Matthews, who made it just five days before pulling up lame, were both spectators again on Tuesday. Their absence, given it was the first official practice for the Bombers following final cuts Saturday, puts them in serious doubt to play against the Lions.

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea was more optimistic about a return for Matthews, saying the 29-year-old was “really close.” There’s still no word as to what’s bothering Matthews, who signed a three-year deal as a free agent last month. O’Shea said the team will give him another day before reassessing his status.

Neufeld has struggled with injuries in the past, but is coming off a 2018 campaign in which he started all 18 regular-season games. It seems unlikely the left guard will be good to go come Saturday, but O’Shea wasn’t ready to rule out the 30-year-old native of Regina.

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The Winnipeg Blue Bombers could be without two regular starters on offence when they hit the road to play the B.C. Lions in their season opener Saturday night.

Right guard Patrick Neufeld, who didn’t practise throughout training camp, and receiver Chris Matthews, who made it just five days before pulling up lame, were both spectators again on Tuesday. Their absence, given it was the first official practice for the Bombers following final cuts Saturday, puts them in serious doubt to play against the Lions.

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea was more optimistic about a return for Matthews, saying the 29-year-old was "really close." There’s still no word as to what’s bothering Matthews, who signed a three-year deal as a free agent last month. O’Shea said the team will give him another day before reassessing his status.

Neufeld has struggled with injuries in the past, but is coming off a 2018 campaign in which he started all 18 regular-season games. It seems unlikely the left guard will be good to go come Saturday, but O’Shea wasn’t ready to rule out the 30-year-old native of Regina.

"He doesn’t need to take any reps to be able to play in the games," O’Shea said of Neufeld. "We’re always cautious, though."

Second-year Bomber Cody Speller was in for Neufeld with the first-team offence on Tuesday, while centre Michael Couture and Geoff Gray at right guard made up the interior of the offensive line. Jermarcus Hardrick, who didn’t play in either of Winnipeg’s two pre-season games, was at right tackle, opposite Stanley Bryant at left tackle.

"Having three guys kind of working for jobs, it’s going to be one of those things where it’s week to week, or we have the depth now to put guys in and there’s not too much of a dropoff from the players that are inside," running back Andrew Harris said. "That competition level is going to be high, and they’ve got great leaders on that O-line to push them, too. Obviously, when Paddy comes back, it will be a great addition. But, as for now, he hasn’t practised yet and we’re hoping he’s back soon."

Meanwhile, Kenny Lawler has taken over for Matthews. Lawler, a 24-year-old rookie with NFL experience, won over the coaching staff when he reeled in a team-high four catches for 52 yards in a pre-season win over the Edmonton Eskimos. Lawler joins a receivers group that includes fellow Americans Darvin Adams and Lucky Whitehead, another CFL rookie, and Canadians Nic Demski and Drew Wolitarsky.

"We have the talent to be better than we were last year... all that stuff is fun to talk about, but we need to go out and play good on game day week in and week out and put ourselves in the position we want to be in," No. 1 quarterback Matt Nichols said. "You can talk about it all you want. We need to go out and prove it, and that’s what games are for."

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

 

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

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.

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