January 14, 2021

Bailey finds a home in Winnipeg

Winnipeg Blue Bombers #88 Rasheed Bailey during Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice October 16, 2019.

Rasheed Bailey knows a thing or two about roadblocks. And it could be said he has a PhD in stepping around or going under, over or straight through them.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers announced today that Bailey had signed a one-year contract extension, removing the 27-year-old receiver’s name from the team’s pending free agent list.

The move means so much more than just a line on the Canadian Football League transaction wire to Bailey, who had bounced around pro football’s map so much before his arrival in Winnipeg in 2019 he should have had an endorsement deal with U-Haul.

That’s why – after stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, B.C. Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers – he was more than happy to put his name on an extension with the Bombers.

“Did I think about testing the (free agent) market? No,” began Bailey when reached in Philadelphia by “I’ll keep it as simple as ‘no’ because there was no other place I wanted to be after winning the championship.

“I didn’t even really explore. It was a no brainer. We’ve got unfinished business. Period. I have unfinished business. Period. Yes, I played in the last few games of the (2019) season, but there’s still more left on the bone for people to see from me and I think Bombers fans should see it first.

“I’m coming back and I couldn’t be more happy.”

Bailey first jumped off the page for Bombers coaches during a free agent camp in Florida in the spring of 2019. He opened that season on the practice roster, dressed for his first CFL game in Toronto in early August and made his first start against Saskatchewan in the Banjo Bowl.

It wasn’t until late in the 2019 campaign that he had really established himself in the lineup, starting the final three regular season games and each of the playoff contests, including the 2019 Grey Cup.

All of that – the struggle during the 2019 season and the fight for work in football – wasn’t lost on Bailey when he examined his potential options.

“Once you start getting later in your career your perception changes,” he said. “Me? C’mon, man, I’ve been bouncing around my whole career.

“I was planning to come back in 2020 to something that would be familiar to me, to a home. Now, 2020 took a change… when (the season) didn’t happen I asked myself, ‘What’s the lesson in all this?’ I’m just glad we were able to get something done when we got to talking. It was a no brainer. I want that familiar feeling again, especially with what’s going on now. I want to go back to something and I want to finish.”

A star at tiny Delaware Valley University – where he ended his college career as the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards and second in receiving touchdowns – Bailey has overcome some long odds to get where he is today. He got those NFL looks, even as an undrafted free agent, because of his work ethic. The same could be said of he ultimately landed his place with the Bombers.

And then came another roadblock, as the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 CFL season and put a halt on all the momentum Bailey had built up in the Grey Cup stretch run.

Rather than mope, he’s been all in on further honing his craft and training with a fervour.

“I promise you I’ve been putting the work in all of 2020,” Bailey said. “There hasn’t been a week that went by where I said, ‘I’m done’ or ‘I’m not working out or giving 100 percent.’ This is the lightest in weight I’ve been and in body-fat percentage I’m right where I need to be.

“This is the first time in my career where I’m coming back to a place I’m familiar with and that might work out in my favour. I’ve never had that feeling before. I just want to get that football feeling back again and what better city than to where you won it all and you played a part in that?”