Quick Hits from today’s Blue Bombers practice leading up to next Sunday’s Western Final at IG Field…
1. REPORT FROM SICK BAY: The Bombers were back at work Friday to continue cranking up preparations for December 5th, when they’ll meet the winner of this weekend’s Western Semi-Final between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Calgary Stampeders.
Of note, the practice featured the return to work of DE Jackson Jeffcoat and DB Deatrick Nichols, both having missed the final two games of the regular season, along with WR Darvin Adams, who did not play in Calgary.
Safety Brandon Alexander, QB Sean McGuire and RB Andrew Harris were all present, but not participating in reps. Ditto for LB Jesse Briggs, FB Mike Miller and DB Redha Kramdi, who was limited.
“The health is the byproduct of the end of the year,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “They’re never as healthy as they’re going to be at the start of training camp. Everybody understands this. They play football, they’ve made it this far and they know they’re going to have to look after their bodies and they’re going to be dealing with something, everybody is across the entire league.
“It’s not about whether a guy is 100 per cent or 80 percent. It’s whether or not he’s going to get the full amount of himself… if he’s 80, get the full 80. Don’t worry about not being 100. If you’re good enough to go and if you’re good enough to be on the roster, then get the most out of yourself and that should be good enough.”
Asked specifically about Alexander’s availability for the West Final — the all-star safety was injured in the second quarter in the loss to Calgary and did not return — O’Shea said “he’ll be good.”
The possibility of a return for Harris, meanwhile, remains unknown.
“We’ve had a plan for him for weeks,” O’Shea said. “He’s spending a lot of time with Al (Couture, Head Athletic Therapist) and Brayden (Miller, Strength & Conditioning Coordinator) and is getting his work in. We’ll just keep up with that process until we’ve got to make a decision.
“We’re not far enough along yet to assess whether (him playing) that’s going to happen or not. We stick to our daily routine and we see progress so we just keep going at that.”
2. ONE MORE ON #33: The Bombers were also without RB Brady Oliveira on Friday, leaving the bulk of work out of the backfield for Johnny Augustine and Shaq Cooper.
The Bombers got solid work from all three of the men who started games at RB this year — Harris, Oliveira and Augustine — as they combined to rush for 1,337 yards in 14 games. But, clearly, there’s a different level if a future hall of famer can get back on the roster.
“We miss him a lot, but we got some guys in there that make you miss him not as much,” said right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick of Harris. “Andrew is very special to me. I came into this league as a rookie in B.C. and when I met Andrew my son was probably 1-2 and he’s seen my son grow to eight years old. He’s been to my son’s football games, he’s been to my son’s birthday parties, so it’s a different relationship.”
“He’s been there and done that, he’s a fierce competitor,” added O’Shea. “You always like those guys on the roster, for sure. We’ll see if it can happen or not.”
3. FYI: O’Shea said the Bombers haven’t been game-planning specifically for the Stampeders or Roughriders just yet, but will use the bye week practices through Sunday to tidy up some aspects of their game. “All the stuff we work on is cleaning up some of the things we want to clean up, the execution of the plays that we want to be better at,” he said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of carry over… they’re plays that we would use against any team, really.”… DE Jackson Jeffcoat received his first all-star recognition with his spot on the West team. It’s an honour that, amazingly, his father did not achieve during his long career with the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills. “It’s an honour to be voted as an all-star,” said Jeffcoat. “It’s one thing my father didn’t receive, a Pro-Bowl award. So I feel like it’s for us to be able to get an award like this. It’s exciting. But it’s not it. We’re not done what we need to do.”… Not surprisingly, O’Shea downplayed being named the West Division Coach of the Year. Same for all the other players who received all-star berths and award nominations. It’s not that he isn’t proud, it’s just… “Honestly, I’ve said this before: to me, these things come at the wrong time because we’re so focussed on playoff football and making sure we’re prepared. I don’t know that anybody revels in individual acknowledgement in this team sport.” Asked if it nonetheless says something about the team, he added: “We are a good football team and these things happen to good football teams. But, the guys they really don’t care about what gets done or what gets heaped upon them. They are more interested in what we’re going to do.”
4. QUOTABLE: “I don’t care who we play, I just care that we play them in Winnipeg. I care that guys will be here, I care that the fans will be here — I don’t know where we’re at right now (in terms of attendance) — but I would love to see a sold-out Winnipeg and give the fans what they want.” — Jermarcus Hardrick.