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June 11, 2019

“This defence right here is going to cause a lot of damage.”

Winston Rose resisted the urge to grab the spotlight and turn it on himself. Not his style. Not his thing.

But the veteran cornerback will be returning to his old stomping grounds this weekend when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers visit the B.C. Lions in the 2019 opener for both teams Saturday night at B.C. Place.

“Honestly, I don’t have any emotions right now thinking about it,” said Rose Tuesday, after returning to practice following a training camp injury. “But I know when the game comes that I’m going to be very energetic, and I don’t want to say I have a lot to prove, but I will show my emotions out on the field.

“Right now I’m just focused on my task, my job with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It’s not about me. It’s about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.”

The Bombers defence is dotted with former Lions returning to the den. Rose, cornerback Chandler Fenner, dime back Anthony Gaitor, defensive end Craig Roh and middle linebacker Adam Bighill all wore the orange and black at one time.

But they are all in Bomber colours now, and excited to help build on a defence that gave up the second-fewest points in 2018.

“This defence right here is going to cause a lot of damage,” said Rose. “There’s a lot I want to say, but I don’t want to jinx us and I don’t want to get too much out there. Just know that we’re coming to play every game.

“There’s a lot of potential. I’ll just say they’ve added a couple of players to the defensive side I feel like can make a change. I won’t say it’s a big difference. We’re just adding to the group.”

Rose hopes he can put down some football roots here in Winnipeg. He first came north to the CFL in 2016 as a late-season addition to the practice roster of the Toronto Argonauts, joined the Ottawa REDBLACKS a year later and then finished tied for the team lead in interceptions with the Lions last year.

But the coaching change in Vancouver meant changes to the roster over the winter and the Bombers came courting when Rose became a free agent in February.

“Right after I signed I felt like I made the right decision,” said Rose. “As soon as I signed Coach O’Shea called me, Coach Richie (Hall) called me and Coach (Glen) Young called me and introduced themselves. First impressions mean a lot to me. Soon as I stepped into this stadium it felt like family here.”

SICK BAY UPDATE:

The Bombers first post-cutdown day practice Tuesday did not include OL Pat Neufeld or WR Chris Matthews, although CB Winston Rose and WR/KR Charles Nelson were back at their spots.

Geoff Gray, Cody Speller and Drew Desjarlais continued to work at the guard spots. Asked if he had settled on who his left and right guards might be, head coach Mike O’Shea cracked: “I can’t tell my left from my right so I’ll say no.”

O’Shea said Matthews is “really close. We’ll give him another day and see, but the workouts he’s been doing besides practice I’d say he’s ready to go. We’ll see whether that puts him on the roster or not, but he’s doing quite well and working quite hard.”

And on Neufeld, O’Shea repeated that the veteran guard doesn’t “need to take any reps to be ready to play in the game.”

The Bombers do have a bye next week, before their home opener on June 27th vs. Edmonton.

HE SAID IT:

Here’s O’Shea when asked to offer up a take on what he likes about his squad heading into the season:

“There’s a lot I like. The guys we had at training camp, even some of the guys that aren’t here any more, competed hard and showed a level of athleticism that was quite interesting to look at every day at practice. Overall, we’ve increased some team speed. The guys that were here last year have really taken it upon themselves to make sure the guys around them are ready.

“We’ve lost a little bit of leadership, but we’ve also picked some back up and it’s different voices, which is always interesting and a fresh perspective in the dressing room on how they think things are going. So, I think it all bodes well. I think we’re going to be a strong team.”