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June 25, 2024

“I’ve got a motor and I’m not going to stop until I get there.”

Defensive lineman Ali Fayad -- photos by Cameron Bartlett

There’s a grin on Ali Fayad’s face as wide as a Canadian Football League field and the excitement just oozes from his every word and mannerism. That’s a good thing these days, with so much negativity swirling around the club and a big, black cloud seemingly hovering overhead.

Now, chances are many folks in Bomberland have yet to be introduced to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end, a man who entered rookie camp on of our ‘Five Players to Watch’ list but was nicked up early and only got his first chance to shine in last week’s loss to the B.C. Lions.

There were flashes from the 25-year-old Western Michigan product last Friday, enough of them to scream out for more from a player who was the Mid-America Conference Defensive Player of the Year and who has had pro stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, Toronto Argonauts — he has a Grey Cup ring from 2022 — and then with the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL before signing with Winnipeg.

“Definitely some good out there, too bad we didn’t get the win,” began Fayad after practice Tuesday in a chat with reporters. “I left some plays out there but overall it’s something I can look at on film and get better with what I put out there. Definitely room for improvement, but not too bad for a first game.

“I had a quarterback wrapped up in the backfield, I wish I had got him down. That’s me coming in too high. The next game I’m definitely going to chop down some legs.”

Ali Fayad

It could be said Fayad’s situation mirrors that of the Blue Bombers right now. There’s a lot there to like, and with so many injuries along the defensive line — just as is the case with the receiving corps — he’s been thrust into action and asked to do the ‘next man up’ thing.

That opportunity, it turns out, means everything for Fayad. Injured on the first day of rookie camp, he’s stayed around town while working on his rehab and has now found himself back in the lineup. Given the nature of the pro game and the circuitous route he’s taken just to get to Winnipeg, that’s certainly not lost on him.

“I was really upset (when he got hurt). I was disappointed in myself. Things happen,” Fayad said. “I’m just grateful for the Bombers to keep me here and continue to get me healthy and get me right through the whole process. I’m grateful for them. Now I’m back on the field and I’m happy being out here playing for the best team in the CFL.”

And when that rose some eyebrows from the assembled media — ‘best 0-3 team?’ — Fayad was lightning quick with his response.

“(We’re) 0-3 for now. We’ve got to get some things turned around but it’s still the best squad, the best program in the CFL.

“It’s cruel. It’s cutthroat,” he continued. “I know that hopping around leagues and that’s why I’m so grateful to be here. It’s cutthroat out here. You’re only as good as your availability. I’m just glad we got past it and I’m here now. Like I said, I’m just grateful to be here and continue to be a Bomber.

“This last year has been a pretty long year for me. Coming off last year, I had an MCL (injury) and was only able to play four games last year in the USFL and then I came here and I got hurt right away so it was mentally draining. But I talked with Coach O’Shea and he really got my mind right — the main thing is to get healthy because that’s the only thing I can control. Everything else is out of my hands. I did everything I could so that when I did get back on the field I could help this team make some noise on defence.”

The Blue Bombers need some ‘noise on defence’ after being lit up for 500 yards, including 398 through the air, by Vernon Adams, Jr. & Co. last Friday. Winnipeg’s defence is tied for fourth in points allowed (25.3) and is tied for seventh in quarterback sacks with three.

That’s where Fayad could help.

“I’m a rusher. I’ve got a motor and I’m not going to stop until I get there,” he said. “I’ll never stay blocked. That’s just my mentality when I’m on the field. I don’t like big guys, fat guys, grabbing on me. I’m going to get their hands off me, I’m going to try get off that ball and help my teammates. I love playing with Willie J (Jefferson) — he’s such a huge impact on the game. When team’s play him they always want to know where he’s at so if we can help Willie and we can help Jake and we’ve got DA and Bobo (Jamal Woods)… we’ve got the guys.

“If we continue to get after it and be relentless and have thst motor and want to — really want to get at that quarterback — we can turn the whole thing around.”

One more from Fayad when asked if ever comes up about him being a member of the ’22 Argos squad that beat the Blue Bombers in the Grey Cup”

“When they ask, ‘Hey, didn’t you play at… ?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I was there in the Grey Cup year.’ But that’s behind us now. Now I’m trying to get one here. I keep it tucked away. I need a Bombers one.”

FYI: Deatrick Nichols, who returned to practice on Monday, did not participate on Tuesday but was just given a day to recover. Safety Brandon Alexander was also back at his post… The Blue Bombers decimated receiving corps — now minus Kenny Lawler, Dalton Schoen and Keric Wheatfall — features Nic Demski, Drew Wolitarsky, Ontaria Wilson, Josh Johnson and Jeremy Murphy, with Myron Mitchell and Kevens Clercius also getting work.

“We continue to push forward. Injuries are part of the game,” said offensive coordinator Buck Pierce of losing Schoen and Wheatfall. “It’s unfortunate, but we’re looking forward to the next opportunity. Guys are here for a reason. We’ve said this all year — guys that are in the building are going to help us win football games and be called upon it just happens to be earlier in the season. You never like to see those guys go down. I’ve been one of those guys when I was a player, not being able to go out there and compete, so I know it’s hard.”

ICYMI: We had a great chat with WR Kenny Lawler on Tuesday in our latest edition of ‘The Huddle.’ In case you missed it that episode — along with all the others — can be found here: