Quick Hits from Bomberland on Thursday after a closed-to-the-media practice session in advance of Sunday’s Western Final against the Saskatchewan Roughriders…
1. THE HARRIS WATCH: There was massive news on Wednesday when Andrew Harris returned to the practice field for the first time since mid-October and churned out an impressive performance. And on Thursday he was held back a bit, to the point that Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea described his day as ‘limited.’
“It always depends on the next day – how he feels, how he makes out through the night, what he shows up like with Al (Couture, Head Athletic Therapist) and Brayden (Miller, Strength and Conditioning Coordinator) looking at him,” said O’Shea. “That’s the way it always boils down. When a guy’s day to day and limited you check on him every single day and see if there’s any progress.”
We outlined yesterday what his possible return would mean to the club and his potential impact was only further stressed on Thursday by receiver Kenny Lawler.
“He means a lot. Andrew, he’s a very experienced player,” said Lawler. “He knows the look before it’s about to happen. He sees motion in the defence and in their movements pre-snap to where when the ball is snapped and the play is happening he knows where to go, he knows who to pick up, he knows how to play the running back position up here. That experience goes with the spot and is definitely a confidence booster as well.”
2. INJURY REPORT: Further to the above, here is today’s health report from Blue Bomber sick bay:
— Winnipeg Blue Bombers (@Wpg_BlueBombers) December 2, 2021
3. STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: Lawler is the only CFL receiver to crack the 1K mark this year, having finished the year with 64 receptions for 1,014 yards and four TDs while being named a West Division All-Star. (He’ll almost certainly be named a CFL All-Star, too, with that announcement coming later this month).
That said, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the second-year receiver as he was suspended by the team for one game after being arrested for impaired driving. Going through that, it turns out, has strengthened him.
“I look back on the season and I see a lot of adversity for me personally in my life,” said Lawler. “I’m thankful for it because I believe me going through that has made me a better, stronger person, father… everything. Sometimes I feel like I wouldn’t be here without the lessons I learned through this season. I’m grateful.
“Throughout the course of the season it’s been nothing but love, especially when the incident happened. I felt all the love of my teammates surround me and they were there for me, my family, people I haven’t talked to for a long time reached out to me. When that incident happened and the fire went out I was dealing with a lot and then getting all the love and support, not only from my teammates but people in the community, really helped me regain my confidence and then when I went out there for the next game kind of pick up where I left off. My hat’s off to everyone who helped me during that time.”
4. PLAYOFF DEBUT: Sergio Castillo has dressed for 48 regular-season games spread out over parts of five seasons with the Blue Bombers, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ottawa RedBlacks and B.C. Lions. But Sunday’s Western Final will be his first playoff game.
“I’m excited and I’m anxious in a good way to finally be a part of a team like this,” said Castillo Thursday. “I haven’t been part of a team like this since college, where there’s a bond in the locker room…. I can see why the team’s winning. When you have that camaraderie the results come.”
Castillo connected on seven of his nine field-goal attempts in three games after joining the Bombers in October. That included a 4-of-5 effort in the regular-season finale in Calgary that included makes from 15, 45, 46 and 50, with his one miss coming from 52 yards.
“Being able to help the team out like that when we weren’t able to punch in touchdowns that day, to be able to get long field goals for the team definitely is a confidence booster going into the playoffs.”
Castillo watched last week’s West Semi-final between Saskatchewan and Calgary and lived every high and low as Brett Lauther of the Roughriders and Rene Paredes of the Stamps combined to miss four field goals — including a 44-yarder by Paredes in overtime.
“I feel for Rene. You never want to be in that situation,” said Castillo. “I’ve been in that situation. I went through it last year down south (with the New York Jets).So, you feel for the kicker when he went through that.
“Every time they were kicking out there I tried to put myself in that position. I tried to envision the commentator saying my name or I envision Osh giving me the ‘Go’ on every kick. I tried to imagine the wind based on the flags… just a lot of vision kicks going through my mind, putting myself in that scenario, going through my steps imagining how it would smell like — everything. I go through that whole process in my mind every day. It gets your heart racing, for sure, so that’s good mental practices while I’m watching the game.”
5. GOOD READS/LISTENS: A piece on Bombers receiver Rasheed Bailey by The Bucks County Herald can be found here.
And one more, on the Legendary Bob Irving from Rob Vanstone of The Regina Leader-Post.
While we’re at it… ‘Knuckles’ is getting a lot of love this week as he prepares to call his final game after 47 years. He visited with Bob McCown and John Shannon on The Bob McCown Podcast this week.