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'Hard to process': Bombers reflect on Grey Cup loss, look ahead to future during locker cleanout

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With the sting of defeat still fresh in the minds of everyone, Winnipeg Blue Bombers players walked through and cleaned out their locker room Tuesday, reflecting on the season that was.

For a second straight year, the blue and gold came up short in the final game of the season losing in the final minute to the Montreal Alouettes in the Grey Cup 28-24.

"It's still hard to process," said quarterback Zach Collaros. "When you end the season not winning the Grey Cup, you could say it's a failure and try to process it that way."

Collaros said the team had a meeting with Head Coach Mike O'Shea to try to help them through this moment and were reminded about the great people in the locker room and the memories that were made throughout the season.

"He just talked about how much joy he gets coming in every day working with the coaches, working with us, and seeing us put the extra time in. I'm sure he reflects on his time playing and remembers some of those times. So just things like that, but again, it's not easy."

Even with the positive words being shared by the coach, several players expressed they are still feeling sadness from the loss and don't see that emotion going away any time soon.

"It's still hard to get over, but you know, that's football," said defensive end Willie Jefferson.

"That last drive is going to stick with us, everybody that was on the field, everybody on the sideline, coaches. Everybody felt like they could do something better, something different to make the outcome a little better on our end."

'HOPEFULLY, WE CAN MAKE SOMETHING WORK HERE IN WINNIPEG'

Several players are coming to the end of their contracts, which begs the question, will this team be able to bring back the same group?

It's a question that is asked at the end of every season, and all Bombers players are hopeful the team can stick together.

"I think we've done a really good job over the past four years maintaining continuity, and how much can you continue to do that? I think that's obviously the goal," said Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill.

Brady Oliveira is one of those names looking for a new contract. The Winnipegger is coming off a career year that finished with the Most Outstanding Canadian award.

He said he would love to be back in Winnipeg, but also mentioned the NFL is on his mind.

"Ever since I started playing football (I wanted) to play at the highest possible level, right? So the NFL stuff would, of course, be a dream," said Oliveira. "But, I mean, obviously this is where I want to be if the NFL doesn't work out. I want to be here in Winnipeg.

He noted his agent has already been talking to some NFL teams to try and set up some workouts.

"If it's in the books, if it's meant to be, then it will happen and if not, I've got a good position here and hopefully, we can make something happen here in Winnipeg. We'll see how it goes."

Jefferson is someone who will also need a new contract, and while conversations haven't started yet on a new contract, he said he wants to be back in Winnipeg.

"I don't plan on going anywhere, anytime soon. This is where I'm at, this is where I want to be," said Jefferson.

Collaros also weighed in on the conversation. While he is under contract for the next few seasons, he said he offers his own experiences to his teammates when they are looking at their futures in the league.

He said he has played with many organizations but it hasn't always been the best place to be.

"The grass isn't always greener," said Collaros. "It's not a hyperbole when I say to you guys that this is the best organization that I've played for and I feel like I've just been here my entire career."

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