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August 14, 2019

“You want to protect your own field.”

Winnipeg Blue Bombers #15 Matt Nichols during practice at IG Field August 13, 2019 (Photo by: David Lipnowski)

Andrew Harris has been around long enough – 10 years, 161 regular season games and counting – that his phenomenal production is going to constantly have him moving up some of the Canadian Football League’s all-time charts.

And so it will almost certainly be on Thursday against the B.C Lions, his former team, when the Bombers workhorse tailback could eclipse two significant milestones: First, with 65 yards rushing or receiving, Harris would become the all-time leader among Canadian players in yards from scrimmage. Harris now sits at 13,304 yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving), just 65 back of Ben Cahoon, who retired at 13,368. Also, with 60 yards rushing Harris would move past Dave Thelen and into 10th spot on the CFL’s all-time rushing list.

And just for the record, with 746 yards rushing this season, Harris has already leap-frogged over Robert Mimbs, Charlie Shepard and Dave Raimey into 7th spot on the Bombers all-time rushing list with 4,145 yards – 360 back of Fred Reid at No. 6.

“It’s the same thing when we talk about these milestones,” began Harris as the Bombers finished their final practice of the week. “I mean, it’s a great accomplishment and I’ll appreciate it and enjoy it after. It’s one of those things you don’t really think about before the game, but just focusing on each play, each rep and just doing the best you can to be successful.

“It’s the same thing I’ve said before, too… it’s an accumulation of good coaching, good teammates and just hard work. It’s definitely something to be proud of, but I’m not trying to think about it right now.”

Harris, who turned 32 in April, is arguably playing the best football of his career – and that’s significant, considering he has captured the CFL’s last two rushing crowns, was the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian in 2017, and has been a league all-star in each of the last four years.

Harris leads the CFL in rushing again with 746 yards and has posted consecutive 100-yard rushing games in the last two weeks. Oh, and there’s also this: his 45 receptions so far this year is second only to Hamilton’s Brandon Banks, who has 51.

“I’m just enjoying playing the game and just being out here with the guys, winning championships and getting to championships… that’s the stuff you really care about is your teammates and the relationships you’ve built and the coaches you played with and learned with and grow with,” said Harris.

“It’s about the relationships for me. The numbers are great and it’s definitely something I’ll look at once I’m done playing but at the moment it’s about right now and what I can do to help the team win.”


More pre-game notes and quotes from the Bombers last media session before Thursday’s matchup with the Lions at IG Field…

NOTABLE:

There have been a number of fans and critics of the Bombers offence who have focused on the fact Matt Nichols has not thrown for 300 yards in a game this season.

The 300-yard game is often seen as a critical stat, similar to a running back or receiver eclipsing the 100-yard mark. Nichols has never put much value in it and the numbers so far this season do back that up – there have been 22 single-game 300-yard passing performances by eight different quarterbacks in the CFL this year.

And their combined record? Try 10-12.

Nichols was asked about the passing totals again on Wednesday and offered this:

“It’s not something we’re focused on or I’m focused on. I’m focused on winning football games and however that happens. I’ve said it many times…. If I have to throw for 300 yards to win, then that’s what we’ll do. If I have to throw for 120 yards and we win, that’s what we’ll do. I do not care about stats or anything like that besides racking up wins.”

ALL BUSINESS:

Bombers CB Winston Rose, the CFL’s interception leader, will face his old club for the second time this season. Asked if a matchup against his old squad gets his blood flowing, Rose said:

“There’s nothing special. We just want to come in here and do our job. We know they’re coming off a game they should have won, so we just have to be prepared, be focused and ready for a fight.”

And when Rose was quizzed about whether there was any chatter between his old teammates and himself in Week 1, he just grinned.

“There was no chatter at all. Strictly business,” he said. “As you can see I’ve got my glasses on and I’m just strictly business right now. I ain’t got nothing to say to them. It’s about Winnipeg right now.”

“We just know they have Mike Reilly, (Bryan) Burnham, Duron (Carter), (Lemar) Durant, Shaq (Richardson)… they have a lot of pieces over there that can get it started. As you saw last week, they had a few explosion plays that put them in position to win, they just didn’t finish.

“We feel that they’re going to feed off that game and come in and want to get their second win of the season. We’ve just got to do our job, play our football and just do what we do.”

INJURY REPORT:

The Bombers depth chart lists Cody Speller at left guard, but also Drew Desjarlais and Asotui Eli as back-ups along the O-line. Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea also confirmed that OL Pat Neufeld has been placed on his second six-game injured list, but is getting closer to practising and could be pulled off early if need be.

O’Shea also weighed in on DJ Lalama’s decision to leave the club rather than accept a practice roster assignment.

“It happens,” he said. “We wish he would have stayed, but I don’t think that’s it for football for him.”

HOME COOKING:

We touched on the Bombers current seven-game win streak at IG Field as part of the 3 Storylines our main game preview and Nichols was asked Wednesday about the club’s efforts to build a dominance at home.

“It’s the ownership in the locker room that you want to protect your own field,” he said. “When you have 20,000-plus fans coming out to support you, you want to make sure you have another opportunity to have a great time and celebrate a win and want to come back and do it more. Ultimately this leads to making this place a tougher environment for people to come into.

“For us, it’s having that mindset that we make sure it’s difficult for teams to come in here and win football games. We’ve done a good job of that and to continue that it’s just coming out fired up and getting the crowd into it and playing really good football.

HIGH PRAISE:

Earlier this week the Sanford Health announced that Weston Dressler had joined their community relations team in Bismarck, N.D., seemingly bringing to a close what was a hall-of-fame worthy career.

Several Bombers were asked Wednesday to weigh in on the long-time receiver:

Matt Nichols:

“He is one of the top people I’ve ever played with or been around. Chris Streveler and I were just joking with Sean McGuire the other day that we feel like he got cheated on his full CFL experience by not being able to play a season with Dress. For me, the most important thing  was seeing him play on another team for so many years and not understanding how this little guy could be running all over the field making all of these plays and then getting to play with him and see how it happens, see his work ethic and how he goes out of his way to connect with everyone on the team.

“He’s one of the best people I’ve ever been around. I hadn’t heard it was for sure, for sure done… I kinda figured that, but overall there’s a lot of great memories from playing football with him.”

Mike O’Shea:

“Easily one of the smartest players I’ve been around. I thoroughly enjoyed talking football with him and being around him because he was always a step ahead and always thinking the game. What impresses me about that as he was a young American kid coming into the game and having success while embracing the differences (between the American and Canadian game) and really, truly trying to learn everything he could about our brand of football. I think that’s a great sign of respect.”

Andrew Harris:

“From watching Weston from the other side he was obviously an explosive player and he did a lot of dynamic things, whether it be running, receiving and in the return game. But once I got to play with him, just looking at his process and how he attacked the game and just how great of a pro he was… there are very few guys that you get a chance to be around that are that great of professional athletes and are that focused and that tuned in the way Weston was.

“He had a lot of trust, from the players to the coaches, in giving advice or putting in little tidbits of information here and there. He’s just a great professional.”