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This article was published 1/10/2019 (1006 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Q&A with Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Kyle Walters:
Free Press: 9-5 is a good record through 14 games. But your team has lost three of its last four games and is 4-5 in the last nine. What do you make of the current state of the club?
Walters: "Off to a great start and then the frustration is in five of those losses, three of them we had leads in the last minute. All three were on last-minute drives. You’d like to think certainly during a year something like that happens but for that to happen three times is frustrating. When you have a game like Hamilton, where we just got beat, we don’t have that buffer anymore, so we’re right back with Saskatchewan and Calgary with the same amount of wins. We still control our own destiny. We win out and we win the West, which is the goal, but it’s a little bit disappointing that some of the games that we had a chance to close out we didn’t do it."
Free Press: Of the nine teams in the CFL, all but B.C. have suffered a significant injury to their No. 1 quarterback. What do you make of some of the young backups playing their way into starting roles like in Saskatchewan (Cody Fajardo), Hamilton (Dane Evans), Montreal (Vernon Adams, Jr.) and possibly here in Winnipeg with Chris Streveler?
Walters: "I think it’s good for our league, we needed it. Our league for the longest time has been sort of the same names rotating teams. That’s because this league is real difficult and it’s a short training camp. So, it’s hard for young guys at any position, but particularly at the quarterback position, to unseat veterans who know the game inside and out. Obviously the injuries are tough this year to all the quarterbacks but the positive is that some young guys have gotten a chance to play and it’s really good for the future of our league that there’s a good influx of young quarterbacks that are having some success. Our league has needed that and it’s real good moving forward."
Free Press: What was your reaction to the news of Matt Nichols’ injury and was he being ruled out for the season something you were expecting?
Walters: "At the initial injury we were cautiously optimistic through the rehab process that we were going to be able to give it a little over a month to see if we could get some strength back in there and re-evaluate it. But it just didn’t work out like that. But we were cautiously optimistic from all the reports we had that after four or five weeks of the rehab and the therapy that it might be strong enough to play again. But in the best interests of Matt and what the doctors said, it just didn’t work out, so we went a different route."
Free Press: You signed veteran receiver Chris Matthews to a three-year contract, but released him only months into the first year. Why?
Walters: "We brought Chris in with high expectations. He battled some injuries early and couldn’t quite get his foot in the door with the regular rotation. It just didn’t work out with him in the lineup. Kenny Lawler had been making progress and Lucky Whitehead had his unique skill set and, unfortunately, the situation was that those young guys were getting the nod over Chris. So Chris was released, thinking that he would get another opportunity rather than sit around here and not play, honestly. He wasn’t in favour of that, nor would any player be, so a decision was made to release him and I’m happy another team picked him up. I got along with Chris great, I thought he was a good young man, and it just didn’t work out the way either of us envisioned it would. And now he’s off to Montreal and I wish him nothing but the best."
Free Press: Mike O’Shea’s contract is up at the end of the season. Have there been any talks about an extension?
Walters: "During the season around here there’s no talk of coaches’ contracts. It’s rare we do a player extension during the season. There’s plenty of time outside of football to worry about that and Mike feels the same way on that. Him and his staff are dialled in on winning a football game week to week that they don’t want to be distracted with anything other than winning the next football game.
"Mike doesn’t have an agent. We’re friends and when the time comes, him and I will go out for a beer and I’ll try to wrap my head around where his mind’s at and he can let me know where his mind is at and we’ll have a discussion and go from there. There’s no timeline on that. The coaches don’t need to be distracted with this stuff at this point in the year."