Winnipeg – Football returns to Investors Group Field on Wednesday night, and after three days of mini-camp, another 3 days of rookie camp, and 9 consecutive days of main training camp, Blue Bomber head coach Mike O’Shea is anxious to see what the 2016 edition of his football team looks like in game action as they host the Montreal Alouettes in the opening game of the CFL Pre-season.
O’Shea says he wants the players to be loose and have fun. That is, after all, the essential reason that they play the game. But he also knows there is tremendous pressure on the newcomers to make an impression. “This is a tough situation for them. They understand the business and it’s a very small window to make it in this game. It’s tough for rookies to displace veterans in a short amount of time but they are going to get an opportunity to do that” said O’Shea.
O’Shea added “My pre-game message will be that they just to get out there, go one hundred miles an hour and leave nothing to chance. Football is a tough sport, pro sports is tough, there could be no tomorrow, you gotta leave everything out there, show us you love to play the game and go out there and have some fun. You can’t lose the fun aspect of the game, it’s hard to give the kind of effort that we need if you are not enjoying yourself.”
The Bombers will start Drew Willy at quarterback while Montreal will counter with veteran Kevin Glenn. Neither O’Shea or Montreal coach Jim Popp could give a definite answer on how long the starters would stay in the game. They both said it would depend on how things were unfolding. Matt Nichols is expected to take over after Willy comes out with Dominique Davis and Brian Bennett also expected to get some playing time.
Much of Winnipeg’s regular season starting 24 is already set. But an eye-popping pre-season performance could change that. There are some spots that are wide open. O’Shea is looking for one import receiver to step up and earn a spot. There is one import offensive line position up for grabs as well as at least one and maybe two or three spots undecided in the secondary. And the Bomber coaches would like nothing more than to have a defensive end demonstrate that he can be a good compliment to pass rush specialist Jamaal Westerman.
The Bombers have a very quick turnaround after this game with their second pre-season contest just 5 days later in Ottawa. The roster must be cut to 65 by June 14th with final cuts on June 18th.
Like most teams in training camp, the Bombers have a fairly long list of players who won’t be able to play in the pre-season opener, mostly due to minor injuries. But O’Shea confirmed that highly regarded import linebacker Kyle Knox suffered a significant leg injury during practice on Monday and will be sidelined for an extended period.
Wednesday’s game kicks off at 7pm with the first football broadcast of the year on 680-CJOB starting at 6pm with the pre-game show.