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August 1, 2019

“We’re a confident bunch and ready to play some football.”

TORONTO – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers haven’t just lightly tapped the proverbial ‘reset’ button in an effort to get things right in their world again.

No, the Canadian Football League’s West Division leaders balled up their fists after last week’s loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and have slammed down on the thing with all the force of Thor and his mythical hammer.

Huddled together in Guelph since last Friday’s setback in Hamilton, the Bombers hope that bonding and their preparation has sharpened their focus as they attempt to get a southern Ontario split Thursday night at BMO Field against the winless Toronto Argonauts.

“We feel like we’ve had a good week of practice,” said Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols Wednesday afternoon as the club relocated from Guelph to downtown Toronto. “We’re excited to stay here all week in a facility together in preparing for this game. We’re a confident bunch and ready to play some football.

“It’s just having the right mentality that one bad night doesn’t replace all the hard work and the great things we’ve done this season. With the veteran leadership and the coaching staff we were able to hit that reset button extremely quick and got right back to work and got ready for a game this week. It was nice having a short week after one in which you want to get that taste out of your mouth.

“Guys are fired up to go out and play better than we did last week.”

The Bombers will be facing the Argos, 0-6, for the second time since thumping them 48-21 on July 12th in Winnipeg, a game in which they led 21-0 and 37-6 at halftime.

But they’ve got their own flaws to worry about in the wake of the setback in Hamilton and will be fielding a roster that will feature two changes to the starting lineup with the loss of wide receiver Darvin Adams and defensive back Brandon Alexander to injury, both of whom have been moved to the six-game injured list.

Chris Humes will start for Alexander, while Chris Matthews steps in for Adams.

“I’m extremely excited, man,” said Matthews, who has missed the last three games. “It’s been a great process, these couple of days being back with the team on the football field, in practice and in the meeting rooms with everybody and being able to hear Matt (Nichols) and Coach LaPo (LaPolice) and Buck (Pierce, quarterback coach) call the plays and deciphering what’s going to work, what’s going to get this person open, how we’re going to block for this person… there’s a lot of new things that I’m interested to see going out there in a game this week.”

Matthews has played less than two games this year, having come out of training camp nursing an injury and then banging up his hand early in a win in Ottawa on July 5th. He has three catches for 26 yards this season and asked if he is ready to make an impact on the offence, Matthews didn’t hesitate with his response.

“I’m definitely ready to make an impact,” he said. “I feel like it’s been long overdue. I was just talking to my receivers earlier today and I was telling them, ‘I’ve really only played a game and a half, you guys have played six already. I’m behind the curve, but I’m extremely excited to be back out there.”

It’s been a while since the Bombers have lost consecutive games, dating back to that ugly stretch late last summer when the team dropped four straight before cranking out five in a row in September and October.

“It’s become the mentality and culture here that we expect to go out and win games,” said Nichols. “We’ve done a good job of that and it just comes down to continuing to work throughout the week and make sure we continue to win the one in front of us and when you do that, you end up with having winning records.

“I’ve talked about this a lot… when I first got here there was just a feeling from the players that guys were going to go out and hope somebody made a play and hope we won the game. The mentality has changed that when we’re practising, when we’re talking as a team in the locker room we’re preparing to win a football game. It’s ‘We’re going to win this football game, I’m going t0 be the one to make the play’ is the mentality from every single guy.”


More notes and quotes from the Bombers last media session before Thursday’s matchup with the Argos in the Big Smoke…

ROSE CROWNED:

Bombers CB Winston Rose was saluted Wednesday as one of the CFL’s Top Performers for the month of July, along with Montreal RB William Stanback and Saskatchewan DE Charleston Hughes.

Rose is tied for the league lead with five interceptions and has picked off passes in four consecutive games. Since 1994, only two other players in the CFL have posted a four-game interception streak – Weldon Brown of Edmonton in 2011, and Chris Thompson, also of the Eskimos in 2010. Neither player made it to five games in a row with a pick.

“It’s a team award. I give it to my team,” a humble Rose told reporters Wednesday at the team’s downtown hotel. “Everybody played a part, so I accept it on behalf of my team.

“I give credit to the coaches’ gameplan and having me in the right position. Like I said in earlier interviews, I feel like this is the right fit for me, the right system and everything is just clicking at the right time.”

BIG MOVE:

The Argos pulled off a trade Wednesday in acquiring QB Zach Collaros from the Saskatchewan Roughriders for a 2020 fourth-round draft pick that could become a second rounder depending on playing time and contract extension clauses.

It’s unlikely Collaros, who began his CFL career in Toronto, will suit up for the Argos against the Bombers. Toronto does have a bye next week.

As to the continuing concern that the Bombers might take the Argos lightly, consider this take from Matthews:

“My Pops always told me never play down to their level. So, hopefully that’s going to be the same mindset for everybody else. And if it isn’t, I’m going to make sure I verbalize it and show it by my actions.”

NEXT MAN UP:

The Bombers will have DB Mike Jones step in to handle the kick-return chores, marking the third time in the last four games the club will have a different face back there after Charles Nelson, and Kenny Walker. Jones was a star returner during his college days at North Carolina Central and later after transferring to Temple.

“He’s a highly competitive type of guy who is always working in practice,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “You can see he sort of gets under the skin of guys at practice because he’s always working hard and fighting for footballs and trying to get on the roster.”

NOTABLE:

The Bombers are 36-3 when committing fewer turnovers than their opposition since 2016, and 0-16 when they commit more… Mike Miller and Kerfalla Exumé lead the CFL in special-teams tackles with 12. Miller, FYI, needs two more special-teams tackles to tie Roger Reinson at 174, good for sixth on the CFL’s all-time list.