Winnipeg defensive back T.J. Heath is a magnet for interceptions and has a flair for the dramatic.

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Winnipeg defensive back T.J. Heath is a magnet for interceptions and has a flair for the dramatic.

Take Thursday night, for instance. The Blue Bombers were nursing a 33-25 lead in the final minute of the game when Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray, in the midst of engineering what could have been a game-tying drive, dropped back to pass. Heath calmly stepped in front of the pass, snuffing out the Argonauts’ last chance at midfield.

It was Heath’s fourth interception of the season, which leads the CFL.

"I’m just playing the ball, you know," said Heath. "I play with my eyes, a lot, like you always (hear) me saying. I just try to make plays. If there’s a chance for me to make one, I try to do it. For the most part, I’m trying to have fun and make it last."

Heath said he feels he has the confidence of the Winnipeg coaching staff, which he said permits him more freedom to react to the football.

"The thing about it is the coaches trust me," said Heath. "I know they trust me and that’s the thing that really kind of helps me get picks because a lot of coaches won’t let you do the kinds of things I do... I mean, the people I got — I jumped it. Some times coaches don’t allow you, they want you to play robot football, and they tell me, ‘Just play ball.’ So that’s what I do. I grateful because a lot of teams don’t allow that."

Does that mean he’s freelancing?

"I wouldn’t say freelancing but I do it within the scheme," said Heath, who was acquired from Toronto in the deal for Drew Willy last season. "I do everything within the scheme and I try to make plays within the scheme. I don’t try to go outside and do my own thing."

Heath said facing Ray, his former teammate, was a major challenge.

"It’s still Ricky Ray, I mean, he made some plays tonight," said Heath. "We were able to trick him into doing some things we wanted him to do but he also tricked us a few times, too. We’re going against a hall of fame quarterback — that’s what we’re going to get."

HOT START: Ryan Lankford gave the Blue Bombers a huge boost Thursday, returning the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown.

"What it really was 11 other guys executing their jobs and making my job even easier," explained Lankford, who recalled his last return touchdown came seven years ago during his high school career when he was playing for the Paxon School for Advanced Studies in Jacksonville, Fla. "We had a key on a guy all week and the key came through for us. Eleven other guys made great blocks, I just took the track and trusted my instincts and they made it really easy for me."

Lankford, who made a crucial fumble on a punt return against the Calgary Stampeders during Week 3, has a process for dealing with mistakes.

"We’re going to watch the tape tomorrow and when we’re finishing watching the tape, this game is done," said Lankford. "You sit and think about the fumble you had a couple of weeks ago, or the interception somebody threw, you can’t think about that. It’s what are you doing for me right now. The biggest thing is to learn from your mistake, correct it and move forward."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
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Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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