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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

DREW WILLY SHRUGS OFF CRITICISM

WINNIPEG (CP) - Drew Willy shrugged off criticism about his role in the Blue Bombers' struggling offence, saying it comes with the territory.

"That's how it goes as a quarterback,'' Willy said after Wednesday's walk-through to get ready for Thursday's home game against the Calgary Stampeders.

"I've seen a lot of things over my professional career, whether I was the backup or whether I was on practice squad or whether I was the starter.

"I've seen some of the best quarterbacks to have ever played the game go through some stuff.''

The "stuff'' Willy is going through this season has already included boos from his hometown fans and calls for backup Matt Nichols as the CFL team sits with a 1-3 record.

Willy said he gets a lot of support from other quarterbacks around the league.

"It's kind of a small fraternity. (We) kind of talk about things by yourselves that maybe the outside doesn't understand.''

Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell said he hasn't personally talked to Willy about the topic, but he knows how the tide can turn.

"Fans are fickle, and that's what they are,'' Mitchell said. "They love you for a minute, they hate you the next. They can't wait for the next guy to come up because (it's) a new changing face.

"To Drew, I would just say, 'Stay confident. Be the guy you are and just keep playing football.'''

Winnipeg's offence under new co-ordinator Paul LaPolice has averaged 20 points through four games, eighth in the nine-team league, even though it's added such talent as receivers Weston Dressler and Ryan Smith and running back Andrew Harris.

Mitchell has Calgary's offence averaging 26.7 points through three games for third place, but the club sports a 1-1-1 record.

Willy said he's comfortable with the new playbook and is still adapting to some of the new receivers. His aim is to make sure his fundamentals are good on every play.

Connecting on some deep throws - one criticism of his play - also wouldn't hurt.

"Once I start hitting these deep balls, everyone will be good with everything,'' Willy said. "So that's what it really comes down to.

"I'm just trying to get better every single day out there and keep working.''

The Stampeders are coming off a bye week with a history of success. They're on a 13-game win streak after a break, including seven of those on the road.

Winnipeg was under a heat alert Wednesday, with a temperature of 31 C and humidity making it feel like 42 C.

It's forecasted to feel like about 34 C with the humidity at Thursday's kickoff, a heat Stamps' Virginia-born receiver Marquay McDaniel said he loves.

"I told them when we got off the plane, I feel like home,'' said McDaniel. "The humidity, I like it.''

McDaniel had seven catches for 116 yards when Calgary defeated the visiting Bombers 36-22 on July 1.

The Stamps have also won their past seven games in Winnipeg, with the last loss in July 2009. Winnipeg last beat Calgary in November 2014 in Alberta.

A victory this week keeps Winnipeg in the thick of things in the West Division, noted back-up Bomber quarteback Matt Nichols, who didn't "care for'' the criticism Willy is getting.

"There might be some panic on the outside, but there's not in our locker-room,'' Nichols said. "Right now, my role is to help (Willy) as much as I can and help coach the receivers.''

The Bombers receiving corps will be without Ryan Smith (lower-body injury) for six weeks. Thomas Mayo is starting in his place. Receiver/kick returner Quincy McDuffie is also back on the roster, as well as rookie Canadian defensive lineman Trent Corney.

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