Blue Bombers busy as Sunday Semi-final approaches
WINNIPEG – Just days away from the West Division Semi-final, several storylines are swirling around the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. From defence and cold weather games, to quarterback statuses and award nominations (and omissions), here are the takeaways from Wednesday afternoon’s media session:
1. Mike O’Shea (still) doesn’t want anyone to know who will start at QB.
Zach Collaros played very well in picking up the win over Calgary to finish the regular season, his first start since June 13.
“For me, I thought did a pretty decent job of seeing what they were doing,” he said of the October 25 game, where he completed 22 of 28 passes for 221 yards and pair of touchdowns. “They threw a lot of different looks at us. They're a very good defence, and they disguise things very well, so it was a lot of fun."
Collaros also took the majority of reps with the first team offence in Wednesday’s practice, and is preparing like he will get the call. Meanwhile, Chris Streveler wouldn’t specify where he was at in recovering from an injury that saw him hit the one-game IR for that game against the Stamps.
“It's kind of just a process,” said the 24-year-old, who’s completed 156 of 234 passes this season for 1,564 yards and eight touchdowns with 14 interceptions. “I mean, it's just getting better every day. We'll see kind of how it feels tomorrow. Today's been the most I've done in a while."
Despite all the evidence, O’Shea wasn’t revealing anything.
"They all took meaningful reps, so we'll figure it out as we go along,” he said.
2. Andrew Harris is a West Division All-Star despite not being nominated for an individual player award.
A three-to-two vote between local media and O’Shea resulted in Harris not being the team’s nominee for Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Canadian last week. On Wednesday, Harris met with the media for the first time since the vote was revealed, and was asked about being named an All-Star.
“It's a big kudos to my teammates, coaches, family, and you know I'm just a product of my environment and the people around me,” he said, after leading the CFL in rushing for the third consecutive season with 1,380 yards on 225 carries in 16 games.
He was then asked whether not receiving enough votes for an individual award bothered him.
“Talk to these guys,” he said, referring to local media members as he ducked out of the scrum.
O’Shea voiced his disappointment at the lack of nominations, and justified his decision to vote for Harris despite a positive PED test.
“I’ve gone on record saying I believe it was accidental,” he said of the positive test. “I also firmly believe that if there’s a process in place, in the middle of the process is not the time to try and change it. That’s what the offseason is for.”
The CFL currently has no set guideline for dealing with eligibility of an individual player award nomination amidst a positive PED test.
“If you want something changed like that, in the middle of the season, in the middle of a process that’s going on, you voice that in the offseason, and you change the process then. Not during the season,” said O’Shea.
Stanley Bryant, Willie Jefferson, Winston Rose, Marcus Sayles, and Mike Miller were also named West Division All-Stars.
3. The Bombers’ defence has a plan to stop Bo Levi Mitchell’s aerial attack.
In two games against Winnipeg this season, Mitchell has thrown for 687 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Yeah he has a great arm,” said Sayles, who had three interceptions as well as three forced fumbles this season. “You know our coaches are going to put us in position just to play top down defence, and make him rattled. Our de-line is a really good de-line, and they'll always get pressure on him, so it's up to us in the secondary to make sure he doesn't have his first read, or his first target, and just play around that."
4. It’s going to be cold on Sunday in Calgary.
“Gotta keep your hands like this,” said Sayles, with his cold hands placed in the hand warmer around his waist. “ Keep shaking ‘em up, be by the heaters on the sidelines. You’ve just got to take it.”
And as we’ve seen in cold-weather games in the past, it can affect the way a team attacks and defends.
“We know that the quarterback is going to have a difficult time handling the ball, we don’t think he’s going to be able to make as deep of throws,” he said. “I think he’s going to be a little more conservative with stuff, and it allows us to play a little bit tighter. We’ve just got to take advantage, especially with a quarterback like Bo Levi, who’s able to make plays all the way across the field.”
“Cold weather is one thing, you can obviously tell people don’t want to get hit as much in the cold weather,” said Harris. “If there’s snow and the traction is a little bit different, obviously as a ball carrier you know where you want to go, where you’re trying to go, and the defence is trying to guess and react to you. It usually plays as an advantage in those cold weather, slick games.”
The Bombers and Stampeders kickoff the West Division Semi-final Sunday afternoon at 3:30 pm CST.