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Friday, March 25, 2016


Kyle Walters has no doubts the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will have their offensive leader back when they open training camp.

The Winnipeg GM was in Florida on a recent family vacation and visited with quarterback Drew Willy, who missed most of last season with a right knee injury. Walters said he watched the Bombers' starter work out effectively without a knee brace.

"He's healthy and ready to take this organization to the next level,'' Walters said Thursday during a telephone interview. "Which for us is he's going to get us into the playoffs and fight for Grey Cups.''

Winnipeg was 3-3 when Willy fractured his shinbone and partially tore the posterior cruciate ligament in a 38-8 loss to Hamilton on Aug. 9. Losing Willy was catastrophic to the Blue Bombers, who dropped 10 of their final 12 games to miss the CFL playoffs.

A silver lining to Willy's injury was Walters' acquisition of veteran Matt Nichols from Edmonton. Nichols went 2-5 as the Bombers' starter, completing 61.2 per cent of his passes with 10 TDs and seven interceptions before re-signing this off-season.

Having Willy and Nichols in tow is a definite boost for the Bombers but it's a healthy Willy who gives them their best chance for success. And time is of the essence for Walters and head coach Mike O'Shea, who are both in the final year of their contracts.

"We're comfortable going into this year having two guys we think can win football games,'' Walters said. "But Drew Willy has led us to victories and when he's played we've certainly won our fair share.

"It's important keeping him healthy and upright and playing 18 games if we want to have a chance to win.''

Winnipeg had trouble protecting the quarterback last season, allowing 59 sacks, second only to Saskatchewan (65). Walters signed veteran Canadian centre Jeff Keeping in free agency but plans to use the CFL draft (May 10) as well free-agent and mini-camps to find other capable offensive linemen.

"We'll have 12, 13, 14 (offensive linemen) in training camp ... and see how it sorts itself out,'' Walters said.

Two players who won't be competing for jobs in Winnipeg are receiver Clarence Denmark and defensive lineman Bryant Turner. The five-year veterans were released Wednesday, both casualties of the CFL's $5.1-million salary cap.

Walters was active in free agency last month signing Keeping, defensive linemen Keith Shologan and Euclid Cummings, running backs Andrew Harris and Pascal Lochard, receiver Ryan Smith and kicker/punter Justin Medlock. Prior to the free-agent deadline, Walters added veteran receiver Weston Dressler after he was released by Saskatchewan.

In a salary-cap world, Walters said the harsh reality is when players are added, others must go to maintain financial balance.

"Unfortunately, that's the brutal reality of our line of work,'' he said. "When you're not winning football games the guys with high price tags, particularly Americans, are the ones scrutinized from a salary-cap standpoint.''

Walters said he tried to trade Denmark and Turner but couldn't finalize deals for either. Walters added compounding matters was both were due bonuses prior to the start of training camp, making it financially challenging to allow them to return and compete for their jobs.

"There's a fine line between doing right by the player and trying to do right by the organization,'' Walters said. "Their contract structure made it impossible to bring them to training camp.

"There wasn't going to be a trade done today, tomorrow, a month from now or two months from now so it seemed the best thing for those guys was to give them a shot to get a contract in place.''

One player Walters isn't banking on this year is linebacker Andy Mulumba. Winnipeg selected the former Montreal resident No. 2 in the 2013 draft before he cracked the Green Bay Packers' lineup as an undrafted rookie.

The six-foot-three, 260-pound Mulumba is currently a free agent after Green Bay decided against tendering him a contract. But Walters said Mulumba wants to exhaust all of his NFL options before considering the CFL.

"I think if you don't see him signing before training camp they (Mulumba's camp) are going to see it through the whole year to see if an injury comes up,'' Walters said. "They're in no rush to come here.''

(Canadian Press)


Anonymous said...
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Morgan said...

Drew Willy still doesn't have an oline to block for him. It's gonna be another rough season for the blue bombers!

Anonymous said...

Drew Willy/Matt Nicols ready to take the Blue Bombers to a Grey Cup victory. Thats more than you can say about the Saskatchewan's Darian Durant who's been out of football nearing 2 years leaving question to his comeback 2016.

Anonymous said...

How did your Riders fair the past season…no room to talk, you guys are going to be just as bad and most likely worse as the bombers have big talent on the offence.

3RD and 1 said...

The Riders offence was not an issue last year. The biggest problem was defence. They had the worst defence I have ever witnessed. That has been rectified with eastern and western stars on the D- ends. As well as DB's that are tall fast and proven. I would suggest Winnipeg has just as many question marks as SK. I loved Dressler and Smith. However the facts are simple. The more you try to get the ball to these guys. The more INTs your QB throws. That is the challenge of 5'6" receivers. However if they are used in crossing routes and you hit them in the openings. They can be deadly. One on one with talented DBs is where you get into trouble with the ball being picked off. Also why was Wally so ready to let a Canadian RB go to free agency. Is it his play or his distractions in the locker room. I for one don't understand. His National status and ability to catch out of the back field makes him a good player. Maybe Wally feels he's past his best before date. Just like when SK traded for Geroy Simon. Other than the GC game. Simon did very little on the field.
It's been so long since the Bombers have won a GC they may have forgotten how to get there.

Anonymous said...

Short talent on offence lol

Anonymous said...

My granny wearing her army boots would have easily bettered Geroy $imon in that GC game. Roughriders still on the hook for that wasteful ta man contract.

Anonymous said...

The riders defence has a lot of new guys…tall and fast doesn't make them good so that is yet to be seen. Short on talent..not to long ago that same talent won you two grey cups but now that they are gone they are garbage right, geez you rider fans are a disgrace for saying things like this…guess you are only good if you wear a rider jersey like really and remember your riders are the lowest team for grey cup count in the history of cfl with 4…brutal. Also Andrew Harris wasn't let go because Buono felt he was on the wrong side of his career or bad in the locker room, I knew he was gone 3 to 4 weeks prior to the season ending due to him wanting to play for his home town team…Andrew Harris is probably the best back in the league yet. You rider fans are going to have a very long season ahead of you.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Harris was let go because BC had no tangible Canadian to back him up. If you have a Canadian starter, you need a Canadian to back him up or else you run into ratio problems elsewhere. Shea Emery without a Canadian backup was an example of a ratio breaker like that last season. Harris is only 28 and has plenty of good football left in him, but what happens if he goes down? Then what?

I really do feel sorry for poor, stupid Bomber fans. A generation of competitive irrelevance, and the only solution they have is to acquire players the Riders are willing to let go (Willy, Shologan, Dressler) and by paying $175k for an American kicker. When Winnipeg finishes 9-9 or 8-10 Walters and O'Shea will be fired and you'll be right back where you have been for the last 25 years, totally irrelevant.

In a few years with the Management team and coaching staff that are currently in place, along with the Riders massive financial resources, will have created a juggernaut that will be extremely competitive for a long time.

The Riders have an extremely bright future of hoisting more banners at their new stadium, while the Bombers can look forward to another exciting free agency period next year as they struggle to cease being the joke they have been for a generation.

Anonymous said...

in a few years Chris Jones and some of his company will be back in the U.S as they have planned, you really think he has plans to stay in sask for years to come….hahaha. First NFL or NCAA contract offered to him and you will see how faithful he is. I do have a question though…what are the big pieces in place for the riders to turn this around? If you say Durant at any time I will laugh so please don't haha.

Anonymous said...

Jones(the LB), Gainey, Foster, Capicotti, Lemon, another Jones, Brooks, Newman, a third Jones, Lawrence, Steele, Chiles and Walter.

Proven CFL veterans and a few Allstars. And those are just the free agents.

Add Labatte, George, Roosevelt, Bagg and Knox from last year's roster and production from unknown commodities(Rayford and Kelley)and you have a roster that is much deeper and talented than that high priced monstrosity that Kyle Walters put together.

Come Labour Day when the Bombers are struggling because their 1 deep roster is having some injuries, you'll be wishing you hadn't spent $175k on a kicker.

Oh, and if you think Willy can play an entire season or that Nichols can win in his place, you're out of your mind.
Walters plan right now for his O-line is to "bring 10, 12 or 14 guys to camp. It will work itself out" is essentially saying he'll throw some shit against the wall and see what sticks the longest. Nobody to block means ZERO production from Willy and Harris.

The Riders might not have a Grey Cup championship roster this year, but they definitely have a deeper and more solid roster to get through an 18 game season than Winnipeg.

I really do hope everything works out for you guys though, I actually pity you folks and the 25 years of recent futility you've had to endure.

Oh, and when Jones does leave, Murphy will be the next GM and we will buy whoevers coaching staff we want with our nearly endless financial resources.

Too bad the Bombers streak of irrelevance isn't as endless.