May 23, 2016

Blog: The wait is over

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files Head coach Mike OÕShea (left) and GM Kyle Walters will have their fingerprints all over this seasonÕs edition of the Blue.

In my eight seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, we have been through some great times, but have also endured some rough years. As we gear up for the start of the 2016 rookie camp this afternoon, I once again thought about how this offseason went, much like I reflect on a season gone by in December.

Now, we all know nobody wins a game or a championship in the winter months – and GM Kyle Walters is the first to say just that whenever someone praises his offseason transactions – but it’s also very accurate to say at this point that I don’t believe we have ever had the momentum we have heading into 2016.

Once the Grey Cup had come and gone, I sat with Kyle in his office one morning and talked about the months ahead.

“We’ve got some work to do, brother,” he told me that morning.



We headed into the offseason with the plan of acquiring the following: A top-flight offensive coordinator, re-signing Matt Nichols to stabilize our quarterback depth, go heavy in free agency (Ryan Smith and Andrew Harris were already being discussed internally shortly after the last down was played in 2015), and improve our kicking game. Not often does your offseason go almost exactly according to plan, including the draft, but this one really did.

And as I write this, our scouting staff of Danny McManus, Ted Goveia and Drew Morris sit in the room across the hall from my office, deep in discussion about the players about to hit the field this afternoon. These are their guys, the guys they have chased for, at times, years.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files Head coach Mike OÕShea (left) and GM Kyle Walters will have their fingerprints all over this seasonÕs edition of the Blue.

Drew said, “there are a few defensive ends that we’ve been trying to get signed for two seasons now. You put them on the neg. list when you can, but then they explore options and you chase and chase and talk, and when they finally sign, it’s exciting. I’m excited to see them out there.”

For example, our scouting department has been trying to get defensive end Shayon Green signed for nearly two seasons, and in that time he played for the Steelers. Drew told me the other day he spoke with defensive end Adrian Hubbard close to 25 times on the phone – back and forth dialogue to try to get him to commit to Winnipeg. The whole process takes a lot of time.

Al CoutureThe club will have three days of rookie camp (starting this afternoon), and will make a few changes to the roster before we open main camp this Sunday. Saturday is when all the veterans arrive  – everyone will go through all their medicals, led by our Head Athletic Therapist Alain Couture and the team doctors, something the rookies have all mostly completed already.
“Saturday morning will start at 8:30 a.m.,” Al tells me. “They all see a physician, a dentist, do an eye exam, do height and weight, a cardiac screening, concussion baseline testing and a lot of paperwork.”
Once all of these stations have been completed, the player will hand his folder back to Al, who compiles all the information, and meets in the afternoon with Kyle, Mike, and our scouting department to run down every single player’s information.

“That’s really the pass-fail meeting,” he says. “We go through every player, one by one, any concerns are brought up then, and that’s essentially where all of that is decided.”

Following medicals, the entire football operations department and players will congregate in the team theatre at 3:00 p.m., where each head of department will speak to the organization. This is mainly pertinent information players need to know in terms of processes, policies, and an introduction to who they will be working with for the season. With that, everyone will head to meetings and the 2016 training camp will have officially begun. Finally.

We would love to see as many fans as possible out at Investors Group Field for the opening of our 2016 training on Sunday. Practice will begin at 9:00 a.m. See you there, and let’s get the 2016 season started!

Microsoft Word - 2016 Rookie Camp Day 4 May 28th Daily SCHEDULE.