The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are preparing to host the West Division final on Dec. 5, but as the days count down to next weekend's tilt, their star running back has yet to return to the field.

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This article was published 26/11/2021 (181 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are preparing to host the West Division final on Dec. 5, but as the days count down to next weekend's tilt, their star running back has yet to return to the field.

The Bombers were back at it Friday morning, scattered across IG Field for the first time for a formal workout in more than a week. Once again missing was Andrew Harris, who has been out of action for the last 49 days with a knee injury. Harris arrived at practice in its late stages, but was limited to being a spectator, joining his teammates decked out in a winter jacket and boots.

"We've had a plan for him for weeks," Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea said. "He's been spending a lot of time with (head athletic therapist) Al (Couture) and (strength and conditioning coordinator) Brayden (Miller) and getting his work in."

He added: "We'll just keep up with that process until we got to make a decision."

Harris has been spending time in the gym, doing specialized workouts that the Bombers hope will result in an eventual return to play the winner of the West semi-final between the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders. The 34-year-old last played in Week 11, in a 26-16 road win over the Edmonton Elks.

Harris reeled in a five-yard pass and just as he was about to cross the goal line for a touchdown, he tweaked his right knee. He'd still get the score but required help to leave the field and didn't return. Brady Oliveira would take over, finishing the night with 105 rushing yards on 16 carries.

"I don't think we're far enough along yet to assess whether this is going to happen or not," O'Shea said of whether he expects Harris to play next Sunday. "We stick to our daily routine, and we see progress, so we just keep going with that."

Prior to getting injured, Harris was playing like his old self. He missed the Bombers first three games after suffering a calf injury early in training camp, but in the six games he dressed for he was averaging more than 97 rushing yards a game.

Oliveira and Johnny Augustine have played well in relief, but there's a certain energy that No. 33 brings to the game that can't easily be replicated. Not to mention his consistency running between the tackles, with Harris leading the CFL in rushing the previous three seasons.

Right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick has great respect for Harris. He began his career alongside him, joining the B.C. Lions in 2014 as a rookie. Harris was already an established veteran at the time. Their friendship has grown ever since, with their respective families now close.

"Andrew is Andrew and he brings an energy but it's the unspoken things, the communication and you never want to leave any stones unturned," Hardrick said. "I just feel comfortable with him in there… there's so much going on in games that sometimes I'll forget to turn around and tell Andrew something and I just know he'll be there."

While it's not the best of signs Harris wasn't practising Friday, the real tell-tale sign of whether he'll be ready to go will come next week. While Harris doesn't require a ton of practice to get ready, given how long he's been off the Bombers will want him to get at least a couple workouts in.

"He's been there, done that and is a fierce competitor," O'Shea said. "You always like those guys on your roster, for sure. We'll see if it can happen."

Other news on the injury front includes defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and defensive back Deatrick Nichols returning to practice after missing the last two games. Safety Brandon Alexander, quarterback Sean McGuire and Oliveira were all spectators, but will all be back sometime next week.

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.