Andrew Harris 33 first half
5 Quick Hits from Tuesday: Day 1 of the Blue Bombers practice week — and a closed-to-the-media session — leading up to Friday’s meeting against the Elks in Edmonton:
1. THE PLAYOFF SCENARIO: There’s still so much road yet to travel for the Blue Bombers and, despite the mantra of just going 1-0 this week, the playoff picture nearing on the horizon is coming into focus.
The Canadian Football League sent out its first playoff scenario of the season on Tuesday and the Bombers can be the first team to clinch a spot with a victory this Friday in Edmonton.
The Bombers, at 8-1, have a six-point lead over the second-place Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are 5-4, and have already swept both games against their Prairie rivals. The B.C. Lions are third at 4-4 — Winnipeg won the first meeting between the two teams — and Calgary is at 4-5. The Bombers also won their first meeting with the Stampeders.
Winnipeg hasn’t finished first in its division since 2011 (as an East Division team) and only twice (including 2001) in the last 20 years. The last time the Bombers finished first in the West Division was 1972.
2. NO. 3 WITH A BULLET: Don’t look now, but three-time defending CFL rushing champion Andrew Harris has rocketed up into third place on the league’s rushing list, despite having missed the first three games of the season due to injury.
Harris rushed for 150 yards in last week’s win over the Elks and with William Stanback having missed Montreal’s win over Ottawa on the weekend and the Bombers defence having limited James Wilder, Jr. to just 43 yards, the Bombers running back is back in the fight for another crown.
“Coming into this season I just wanted to be productive, whatever that meant to the team,” said Harris. “It was tweeted out (Monday) and I was just kinda looking at the numbers and it is a possibility. But I’m not really focussed on that. It’s coming in week in and week out, being productive and helping the team win and make an impact in any way I can. So, if that’s a possibility near the end of the season I’ll definitely look more keenly at it.
“But for right now I’m just trying to get my game back under my feet and playing the best football I can come the end of the season and going into the playoffs.”
3. WELCOME BACK, LAWLER: The Bombers will get leading receiver Kenny Lawler back this week after he served his one-game suspension in the win over Edmonton. Even with missing a game, Lawler continues to lead the CFL in receiving yardage with 703 yards on 45 catches and four touchdowns.
“I’m very anxious to get back on the field, very anxious just to get back to what I’m known for,” Lawler said Tuesday. “I’m trying to put this behind me as best as I can. There’s been so much help from my teammates, from my coaches, from my family members, even members of the community. That’s been a big help from me getting past this. I can’t wait to get back on the field with my brothers.
“It was bittersweet (watching last week). Sweet because I love seeing my teammates have success. And bitter… I hate watching the game from the sidelines. I don’t usually watch too many football games from the sidelines. It was bittersweet, but it put a lot of things in perspective for me. I just feel like it really helped put my life back on track, put a lot of things back in perspective.”
4. MORE TO GIVE: The Bombers were lamenting the points left off the scoreboard last Friday, even in the wake of a 30-3 victory over the Elks. That included being stuffed by the Elks at the Edmonton goal-line on the first offensive possession, to having a pass picked off in the end zone and the field-goal issues, with Ali Mourtada going just 1-for-4.
That viewpoint certainly didn’t change given the opportunity to go through the film over the last few days.
“We feel like we haven’t played our best and as professionals we have to figure why we haven’t and continue to get better and be critical of ourselves even after a victory,” said quarterback Zach Collaros.
“We had a good watch of the film after the game. Obviously even the casual fan could figure out a couple of those reasons why we didn’t score touchdowns early in the first quarter. There’s some things we have to clean up. Edmonton’s a tough defence, man. They bring it up front, they challenge you in man and I know they’ll have a wrinkle or two for us in this game and it being the third (meeting), we’ll have one as well.
“We have a really competitive bunch of guys. Nobody is going to rest on their laurels and be complacent. It’s always a competition at practice between us and our defence and guys want to get better; guys want to be great. We know where we want to be at the end of the year and how to do it.”
5. TOP OF THE HEAP: The Bombers have the CFL’s leading passer in Zach Collaros (2,355 yards passing), the leading receiver in Kenny Lawler (see above) and the league leader in touchdowns in Sean McGuire, who has seven.
The Bombers dominant defence leads in numerous team categories, with Jackson Jeffcoat leading the league in forced fumbles with four.