Blue Bombers head coach Dave Ritchie (l) and wide receiver Robert Gordon horse around during the Bombers' media lunch 21May.
Quick Hits from Blue Bombers practice on Tuesday leading up to Friday’s home date with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at IG Field…
CALLED TO THE HALL: The Canadian Football Hall of Fame announced its 2022 induction class and included among the greats was former head coach Dave Ritchie and one-time defensive back ‘Tricky’ Dick Thornton.
Ritchie was part of Mike Riley’s staff in 1990 that helped guide the club to a Grey Cup championship. After head coaching stints with B.C. and Montreal he became the Blue Bombers head coach in 1999 and from then until his departure in 2004 compiled a 52-44-1 record — including a 14-4 record and a berth in the 2001 Grey Cup — with that win total ranking him behind only Bud Grant (102), Cal Murphy (86) and Mike O’Shea (69).
O’Shea was playing during Ritchie’s coaching days and when asked if he came across him much said:
“Not enough for a guy with that much information and experience.”
As for his induction, O’Shea added:
“If he’s held in that regard then obviously he’s earned it because they don’t let everybody in. Obviously he’s meant a lot to this franchise and his longevity in the CFL means he has seen it all and done it all. That’s a nice tribute to him.”
Thornton was an exceptional athlete during his days with the Blue Bombers from 1961-66 who played primarily as a defensive back, but also carried the ball, caught passes, returned kicks, punted and occasionally played quarterback.
One of the most colourful men to ever play the game, Thornton once tried to convince head coach Bud Grant he should play quarterback by hiring a kid to run through the bleachers with a sign that read ‘Thornton for Quarterback.’ Not surprisingly, Grant wasn’t convinced.
For more on the complete list of the CFHOF inductees:
BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: The Blue Bombers have been far from perfect through two weeks, and the lofty expectations in these parts has led to some criticism — particularly on social media. Asked what he has been hearing from fans, O’Shea said: “Well, the guy at the stop light last night was pretty fired up. He was excited for Friday and he said, ‘Let’s go get ’em’ and he gave me a fist pump as he drove away.
“I think generally the people that aren’t (happy) aren’t happy about anything. So, I could ask them questions about what’s going on in their life and they would probably bring me down. For the most part I believe the fans, the positive ones, or most fans certainly understand we’re not looking at history at all. We’re looking forward. We’re not resting on laurels or previous accolades or anything. Guys are excited about moving forward and getting better every day. That’s what these guys are charged with — try to get better every day.”
ON TARGET: Blue Bombers slotback Greg Ellingson is among the league leaders in receiving yardage with 145 on 10 receptions. Dalton Schoen is also off to a solid start in his CFL career with nine catches for 127 yards.
Nic Demski, Rasheed Bailey and Drew Wolitarsky, meanwhile, have a combined 14 catches for 139 yards. O’Shea praised how Demski and Bailey have handled their target totals so far this season.
“That would be tested over time, but I believe those guys pass those tests,” he said. “They’re human, too. They do want the ball and if you catch them on a tough day I’m sure sometimes the answer isn’t going to sound as nice as that. But, for the most part, all these guys have a great understanding of what’s going on with the offence and when they look at plays as a whole they like the fact their teammates recognize when they make a good block or show extra effort to catch another guy so that we can get more yards in the run game.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who get it, so it’s pretty easy to come to work every day.”
O’Shea also said offensive game plans are obviously dictated by what the opposition does, too.
“Buck (Pierce, Offensive Coordinator) and Bourgs (Kevin Bourgoin, Receivers Coach) do a great job of spreading the ball around and using the formations to get guys touches. Then the defence shows up and no matter how you scheme it, there’s a certain point in time where the defence dictates where the ball’s going to go because the quarterback has got to go through more reads based on what they’re playing. That doesn’t always dictate that takes the ball where it should go.
“Plans change after the first couple of series and you have an understanding of what teams are trying to do.”
FYI: Here’s O’Shea when asked about left guard Geoff Gray: “He’s bloody awesome. Love him. He works his tail off. Yoshi and him will be downfield working like crazy and I’ve always remarked that for a guy who is down playing right to the whistle, he doesn’t take those post-whistle penalties. As soon as hat whistle goes he shuts off, jogs back to the huddle and gets ready to do it again. I love the way Geoff plays.”… CB Winston Rose returned to practice on Tuesday and was working with the No. 1 defence. He was held out of the session later in the morning, with Demerio Houston getting a lot of work in his spot… RT Jermarcus Hardrick was a spectator on Tuesday, with Eric Lofton taking most of the reps in his spot.
The full daily injury report is here:
— Winnipeg Blue Bombers (@Wpg_BlueBombers) June 21, 2022