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May 16, 2024

Quick Hits | Training Camp – Day 5

Adam Bighill, earlier in Blue Bombers training camp -- photos by Cameron Bartlett

Notes and quotes from Day 5 of Blue Bombers training camp…

Future Hall of Famer down… who steps up?: The big news in Bomberland broke Wednesday afternoon when the CFL transaction wire revealed the club had moved linebacker Adam Bighill, cornerback Jamal Parker and defensive back Noah Hallett to the six-game injured list.

All three injuries impact the club in various ways, but the loss of Bighill — a future Canadian Football Hall of Famer, a leader and the quarterback of the defence — could be significant.

“I don’t know that he’ll be on the full six (games) — it’s just one of those things you have to do to manage the business properly,” said head coach Mike O’Shea after Thursday’s practice. “I’m hopeful it won’t be the full six, but we’ll see. We have a bunch of guys in camp competing because we have spots available. Obviously, Kyrie Wilson and Shayne (Gauthier) — guys we’ve had in our building for a long time — can play that spot.

“There’s questions, ‘How do you replace Adam Bighill?’ Well, no one’s Adam Bighill and they shouldn’t want to be — they want to be like him, but they have to be themselves, right? As a leader on a team, authenticity is important for Kyrie to lead in his own way and Shayne to lead in his own way. That’s all they can do, that’s all you really want them to do.

“Biggie’s going to put in as much work as he possibly can to help his teammates through this time and we’ll be good.”

Gauthier is a natural middle linebacker who has had stints in the middle of the defence during his eight years. And Wilson, the starting weak-side linebacker, was also getting work there during practice. Yet, Bighill’s presence goes beyond his abilities as a linebacker and his leadership. Experience and veteran savvy go a long way at every position and especially so in the middle of the D.

Shayne Gauthier

“What Biggie does with the defence is pretty huge — he’s basically the quarterback of the defence who makes sure everybody is at the right place at the right time and he can call the plays before they happen,” Gauthier explained. “That’s a big job. He’s got a big responsibility out there. I learned a lot, I learned almost everything from Adam. You ask him a question, ‘How do you see that? What do you see on this play?’ and he just gives you his perspective on things, which might be different from your perspective on it. It’s always good to have multiple perspectives so you can use all of them and be a better player.”

“Man, it’s like he’s been in the meeting room with (the opposition offence) all the time,” said Wilson of Bighill’s knowledge of offensive schemes. “There’s sometimes where he’s like, ‘Kyrie, go down right now. Go to (middle).’ And I’m like, ‘Where do you see that? OK, I’ll go. Thanks Biggie!’ He’s experienced. He’s a student of the game. I don’t know how many years he’s been in it, but he’s been in it for a long time. He knows all the tricks and all the little things the offence tries to get on us. He’s special.”

As for possibly stepping in to the starting role, Gauthier offered this:

“I’ve been doing it for awhile. I know I can do it, they know I can do it but at the end of the day we’re still in training camp and we don’t know anything. They’re evaluating a lot of guys right now, so before Week 1 is going to happen we don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’m ready to step in. They know I’m ready. I’ve done it in the past, so we’ll see where that leads.

Ditto for Wilson.

“I feel like I’m ready,” he said. “I learned a lot from him and I’m pretty sure he’s still going to be in the meeting rooms coaching us and helping. I’m up to the task if it happens. We’ve got a lot of good linebackers here. Even when I went down a couple of years ago we had a lot of good linebackers ready to step up and take on the challenge.”

FYI: Just for the record, the six-game period wouldn’t start until the start of the regular season, so the trio of players would be lost for at least a third of the regular season if they were to stay on the list for the entire chunk. Parker, it sounds like, could be lost for a bit with O’Shea referring to his situation as ‘that’s probably going to be longer.’ Parker finished the regular season and started the two playoff games at corner and with the club having seen Demerio Houston leave for the Calgary Stampeders in free agency, it’s now a given the 2024 season will open with two new cornerbacks.

So far in camp those spots have been manned by Tyrell Ford and Tyrique McGhee, but O’Shea said the talent is deep at that position.

Tyrell Ford

“Ted, Danny, Cyrill, Kyle (the Blue Bombers personnel group of Goveia, McManus, Penn and Walters) have certainly filled that pipeline in terms of defensive back play,” he said. “We always seem to have guys that can come in and can play, play really well and they can pick it up and they’re obviously well coached. They’re good players coming in, but the coaching staff does a great job — JY (Jordan Younger) and Richie (Hall) do a great job of getting the DBs ready to go.”

FYI: O’Shea opened his press conference taking a moment to salute long-time TSN broadcaster Darren Dutchyshen, who has passed away from cancer at the age of 57. “Sad day to hear the news about Dutchy. If you’re any type of Canadian sports fan at all he was a big part of your living room every night. Tough to hear that news, for sure. He was a Saskatchewan guy and a good CFL fan.”… CFL players, like their NFL counterparts, now have the freedom to wear the Guardian Caps they use in practice in games if they choose. Gauthier said he might consider wearing one in the preseason. DE Willie Jefferson will not. “I like football rough, tough, hard-nosed. That’s the way it’s been played, that’s the way I want to play it. I’m more than comfortable wearing the Guardians during practice to eliminate the concussions and all those scenarios, but when it comes to actual football games that count we need to play football. I’d rather just have my gold helmet with my strip and my ‘W.’ I don’t want anything to block that.”

Preseason plans: The Blue Bombers are still finalizing how they will divvy up the workload for the two preseason games, with the first coming on Victoria Day in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The club can dress as many players as it wants for the preseason, and O’Shea said the number for Monday will be ’79, maybe. We’ll take a lot.”

“I wouldn’t look that Preseason A (Monday’s game) separately,” he said on how the coaching staff manages the workload for vets and evaluating new faces. “We’re looking at Game 1 of the season and working back and seeing how it’s all going to play out and that stuff will affect the decision for this preseason game, too. So, it’s a pretty big picture — and we’re not there yet.”

Next: Friday’s session at Princess Auto Stadium runs from 8:30 a.m.-12:10 p.m.