May 30, 2023

Quick Hits | Training Camp – Day 17

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Barrington Wade (54) tackles Edmonton Elks' Shannon Brooks (22) during first half CFL preseason action in Edmonton, Alta., on Saturday May 27, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

Notes and quotes from Day 17 of Blue Bombers training camp….

JUST RIGHT: Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea indicated after practice Tuesday that QB Zach Collaros will not play in the preseason finale this Friday at home against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. That should leave the work to be shared among Dru Brown, Tyler Pigrome and Josh Jones.

Collaros played all of the first quarter and the first series of the second in last Saturday’s 25-23 win over the Edmonton Elks, leading two scoring drives and completing 5-of-8 passes for 93 yards, including a 67-yard TD strike to Kenny Lawler. His offensive snaps totalled 13.

“I think throughout my career it’s kind of been a mixed bag,” said Collaros after practice Tuesday. “There’s been some years I haven’t played at all; there’s been some years I played one, some years I’ve played both. So, if I’m going to be out there… we had two or three two-and-outs. I asked to be out there for another drive in the second quarter and Osh (head coach Mike O’Shea) and Buck (Pierce, offensive coordinator) allowed it. It’s good. It’s good to get out there and throw the ball around.”

The Blue Bombers brought a lot of veterans to Edmonton and have this week as their final preparation before June 9th and the season opener against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at IG Field.

“It’s the same thing we talk about every year with Zach: we think we have a plan,” said O’Shea. “Then we work the plan with him, ask him what he thinks he needs. Couple that with what Buck thinks and what I think and come up with an answer. And that’s the answer.”

Collaros said the work he got against Edmonton and the pace with which the club practises will be enough to have him ready for the Ticats in Week 1.

“Again, once we start game-planning and getting into that week, you feel good from a preparation standpoint and things like that,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of reps in practice so far. Obviously getting into a game you can’t really replace those live reps. But we practise at a pretty high level out here – you guys know that – so we’ll be ready when the time comes.”

REKINDLING THE OLD MAGIC: Kenny Lawler was the Blue Bombers leading receiver in both 2019 and 2021, before departing in free agency to Edmonton last season. And now that he’s back, he adds another threat to an already stellar receiving corps.

“He’s just a great receiver, not only his physical gifts just from being fast and being able to catch the football and high point it, but he has great body language, and he understands what we’re asking him to do on each and every route,” said Collaros of Lawler. “He’s a great communicator with how he wants to run that route depending on the leverage of the defender, the depth of the defender and all those things.

“He’s just a great teammate. Again, in our system, too, you’ve got to get in there and fight and block and he’s never been afraid to do that.”

FYI: Returning to practice on Tuesday was DE Jackson Jeffcoat. Not practising were: LB Adam Bighill, CBs Desmond Lawrence and Winston Rose, OL Tui Eli, FB Konner Burtenshaw, LB Jesse Briggs, DB Alden Darby, Jr., WR Brendan O’Leary-Orange, DE Aaron Sterling and RB/WR Greg McCrae… QB Tyler Pigrome had the ball sail over his head on a botched snap on his first snap in Edmonton and then converted a second-and-27 with a 34-yard strike to Jeremy Murphy.

“It’s always tough when something doesn’t go your way on the first snap you’re out there,” said Collaros. “But I thought (Pigrome) was very composed and poised and I think guys in the huddle felt that as well. To go out there and move the chains on second-and-27 isn’t something that you see very often. He did a good job there; Murph did a great job… I think the play call was a little screwed up, so there was a little bit of freelancing there, but he was able to move the chains and stay on the field. That’s the name of the game – being able to call more plays and we were able to get a nice run play there; Damian came around and did a great job selling the block on the end and getting up the field and blocking for Pig and he did the rest. He’s a great athlete. He’s just a good guy, nice guy. Everybody’s a little different on the field, but like I said, it’s always important for the quarterback to have a sense of composure about themselves. The guys in the huddle feed off that and he did that really well.”

O’Shea on what he’s seen from Murphy: “Yeah, he’s smart. He picks it up very quickly. Very smart. He’s made some good tough catches, too. He’ll continue to grow and he picks up a lot of stuff very quickly. Woli (Drew Wolitarsky) is one of those guys that if you’re around Woli or playing behind him, you can’t help but just be really taken by how smart he is, how he’s always doing the right thing and how he’s always working so well for the quarterback. There’s so much trust between quarterbacks and Woli, not just Zach, but anybody, Woli would immediately be the guy. So, being around Woli like that would be a great opportunity for a young guy.”

COMINGS/GOINGS: The Blue Bombers added three players today in new DE Celestin Haba while bringing back WR Tavaris Harrison and DB Karon Delince, while moving OL Tui Eli to the one-game injured list and FB Konner Burtenshaw to the six-game injured list.

HEADS UP: The Blue Bombers released important parking and transportation details ahead of Friday’s preseason game, the first of 2023. Read on:

Key Game Day Transportation Information