Qadr Spooner has been paying his dues.
After spending the 2017 season on Winnipeg’s practice roster, the 25-year-old Canadian offensive lineman finally earned a regular roster spot with the Blue Bombers. But as the probable seventh O-lineman, he doesn’t expect to suit up for Thursday’s regular-season opener against the Edmonton Eskimos.
And he’s prepared to continue to bide his time.
"It’s a big jump from university," said the soft-spoken product of Brossard, Que., the club’s 15th overall pick in the 2017 draft. "I played at McGill and I learned a lot in terms of technique and the difference playing in the pros. So it is a big jump and a whole year being on the PR was very important for me."
Spooner was so set on staying the course in Winnipeg that he turned down a mid-season offer to join the B.C. Lions. Teams can pluck players from another practice roster providing that player is immediately inserted into the lineup.
"I saw something special here and do still feel there’s something special here," Spooner said. "I just feel like this unit is the best offensive line unit and one of the best offensive schemes altogether. I feel like there’s a lot going on here and my best development would go on here.
"It is a long process, but I understood I needed that time to learn as well."
BIG ON BIGHILL: Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly, the CFL’s reigning most outstanding player, lavished praise on Winnipeg linebacker Adam Bighill on Tuesday. Bighill, a free agent who signed with the Blue Bombers just prior to training camp, and Reilly were college teammates at Central Washington and in the CFL with B.C.
"Biggie’s a great football player," Reilly said during a league conference call. "I knew that from the time we were playing college football together. He was always considered maybe a little bit undersized, if you can imagine that, for his position. Mainly because of his height, not because of his frame or his muscle because he’s extremely strong. But he’s a guy that works incredibly hard.
"He spends all of his free time working with his body movement coach, making sure he can react incredibly fast. He’s just a savvy football player. Physically, he’s talented, but he understands the game and it’s always a challenge to play against a guy like that."
ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL: Edmonton has former all-star J.C. Sherritt back in its lineup on Thursday after the 30-year-old linebacker missed most of the 2017 with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Sherritt, the league’s most outstanding defensive player in 2012, was injured in his team’s regular-season opener in B.C. on June 24. He worked feverishly to rehab the injury and almost made a late return to action before signing a two-year contract extension in the off-season.
"It’s been a long time coming," Sherritt said. "I felt like I was ready. I prepared to play in the Grey Cup (last season) had we made it. Unfortunately, we didn’t. So it’s been a long wait and it’s a great, great feeling to be able to prepare for a game and know that you’ve got the opportunity to be with your teammates."
NOTEWORTHY: backup quarterback Alex Ross is expected to serve as the primary holder for Winnipeg placekicker Justin Medlock.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.