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November 6, 2019

Need to Know | November 6

It might be a quick trip with a sudden and painful ending. Or it could be a three-week jaunt to Calgary, then Regina, and back to Calgary again that might end in glory.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers road to the Grey Cup begins this Sunday in Calgary against the Stampeders in the Western Semi-Final. A win there would send them next to Regina for a meeting with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Western Final. The winner of that game would then be in Calgary the following Sunday for the 107th Grey Cup.

What’s interesting here from a Bombers perspective is this: a club that opened 5-0 and was 9-3 after 12 games before going 2-4 in the final third of the season never wavered in its collective belief it is championship material. And the first real chance to show that is this Sunday in Calgary.

“This is the moment we all wanted to be in and we’re here now so it’s time to seize that moment,” said linebacker Adam Bighill. “We’ve had our ups and downs all season with injuries… we’ve used virtually our entire roster. We’ve made mistakes, we’ve fixed mistakes and have learned from that adversity.”

“Everybody outside can see us however they want, but that really doesn’t matter to us. When everyone was telling us we were the best team in the league at 5-0, when everybody was telling us we were playoff hopefuls midway through… it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, what people think of us outside of our room isn’t going to help us.

“When the energy is high and there’s lot of praise, you block that out. And when things are negative you block that out, too.”

Bighill was then asked for his sense of the belief inside the room.

“The belief in the room is we are the best team in this league,” he said. “We’ve gone through lots of different trials and tribulations, just as every team has. But our mission has always been to be playing our best football in November and our belief is that we’ve been getting better every single week. And we’re ready to make this playoff run.”

Added cornerback Winston Rose: “All the guys know what we have in that locker room. And you guys are going to find out on Sunday.”


The Bombers returned to the practice field Wednesday following a bye week in preparation for Sunday’s Western Semi-Final in Calgary. Here are some notes and quotes in this week’s NEED TO KNOW…

WEATHER OR NOT:

The Bombers practised in frigid conditions on Wednesday and it’s likely to be much the same Sunday afternoon at McMahon Stadium. Sunday’s long-range forecast for Calgary calls for a high of -14 with a chance of flurries.

Naturally, that made the weather a popular topic after practice.

“I don’t think they noticed,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “It’s playoff weather, right? I think they’d much rather be out in it than not.”

A handful of players, including Jonathan Kongbo, Mike Miller and Willie Jefferson went sleeveless on Wednesday.

“It was freezing,” said Jefferson. “Anything I can do to get acclimated as much as possible, that’s what I’m trying to do.

“The weather isn’t really the main thing on our mind. We’re going to have heaters. We’re going to have things to help us get ready for the game and during the game. The biggest thing is just being mentally prepared and being aware of what Calgary’s trying to bring to the game this game.”

“Hell yeah it was good to be out there. Nice and cool, brisk weather,” added Andrew Harris. “It’s good to be back out there flying around with the guys. I like to dress as I’m going to play. A lot of guys are bundled up, but it’s nice to get acclimated to the cold as best you can. The biggest thing is just keeping those fingers warm, but as long as that’s good and you’re moving around, you’re usually pretty good.

“… You can tell people don’t want to get hit as much in the cold weather. If there’s snow and the traction is a little bit different, obviously as a ball carrier you know where you want to go and the defence is trying to guess and react to you. That usually plays as an advantage in those cold-weather, slick games. We’ll see how the weather plays out. Either way we’re looking forward to getting after it.”

QB WATCH:

The Bombers would not confirm that Zach Collaros would start on Sunday, but he was busy working with the starters at practice. He spoke Wednesday of the value of the bye week in terms of his further indoctrination into the playbook.

“Very valuable,” he said. “Just being able to keep going through the playbook and keep being able to ask the coaches questions about why we call this that, what is this guy’s responsibility, what if this happens from a coverage standpoint… all those things. All that stuff is invaluable to me right now. I mean, it always is, but when you’re playing catch-up it definitely is.”

Collaros started the Bombers final game – a 29-28 win over the Stamps – and threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Small sample size, but he also flashed some of the best of his skillset in the win.

“You want to build on every game,” he said. “I’m not sure if momentum and those kind of things carry over game to game, but the more repetitions you get at doing anything the better you feel. Hopefully moving forward that shows with our execution on the field.”

Worth noting, Chris Streveler was also practising and showed no signs of the ankle injury that kept him out of the regular season finale.

“I’m getting better day by day and just taking it one day at a time,” said Streveler. “No one wants to gets injured and miss time. Like I said, I’m just taking it day by day and seeing how it goes here.

“Everybody has a role and everyone wants to win at this point of the season. That’s all that matters, is winning. If I am able to go I don’t know how it’s going to play out, but I’m more than willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. That’s what I’ve continued to say in every single interview. We’ve got a bunch of selfless guys on this team that just want to win and that’s what is important.”

OUCH REPORT:

Centre Michael Couture was not at practice on Wednesday and his place in the starting lineup was taken by Cody Speller. Couture did not finish the Bombers last game, the regular season finale victory over Calgary.

Asked about his status, O’Shea said: “he’s been excused. We’ll see.”

The Bombers also welcomed back LB Jesse Briggs to the practice field, while the secondary remained unchanged from the last game vs. Calgary, with Rose and Mike Jones at corner, Marcus Sayles and Nick Taylor at halfback, Brandon Alexander at safety and Mercy Maston playing the Dime spot.