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July 2, 2024

Need to Know | Week 5

Chris Streveler at Blue Bombers practice on Tuesday -- photos by Cameron Bartlett

It is a role Chris Streveler has taken on and starred in before, both in the Canadian Football League and down south. He’s more than just a stop-gap fill-in and more than simply an understudy.

And so as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers opened up their practice week on Tuesday in advance of Friday’s home date with the Ottawa RedBlacks with Zach Collaros present for half of the session but not running the offence, the club may very well summon the 29-year-old Streveler from the bullpen to help lead the squad out of the 0-4 hole it has stumbled into in the first month of the season.

“Look, as a back up you’re always preparing to play so that’s what I’m doing this week — preparing to play,” said Streveler after Tuesday’s practice. “You try to keep your process the same no matter what. That’s what gives you confidence on a week-to-week basis. Obviously if you’re the guy getting reps there’s more conversations about those reps that are happening with coach but at the same time your film-watching process and all those conversations within the building are staying the same.”

Zach Collaros

Collaros left Saturday’s 22-19 overtime loss to the Calgary Stampeders late in the first half after taking a helmet to the chest while being squished by man-mountain D-lineman Josiah Coatney. He was listed on Tuesday’s ouch report as having a ‘thorax’ injury.

Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea was non-committal on the status of Collaros for Friday, saying only, “We’ll see by tomorrow maybe, maybe by the end of the day tomorrow” but with Wednesday session closed to the media who takes the first snap from centre against Ottawa likely won’t become clearer until the depth chart is released on Thursday morning.

Streveler started 12 games in his first two years with the Blue Bombers during times when then-starter Matt Nichols was out with injury with the club going 4-8. After spending parts of the last four years in the NFL his knowledge base has obviously grown considerably, and he did rally the club from an 18-9 fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game against the Stamps inside the final minute before being smacked as he attempted to hit Nic Demski in the end zone in overtime with the pass being intercepted.

After practice Tuesday O’Shea was asked if the club can win with Streveler.

Chris Streveler

“Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “This is where I’m about to give you some Paul Maurice expletives for asking the question. We’ve won a lot with Chris Streveler. So… absolutely. And it’s not all on his shoulders — that’s the part that I think people fail to realize. He knows our offence and he’s one piece of a group that has to go out there and play hard and get it done. Everybody has to be sharp and play well regardless of who the trigger man is.”

GET LUCKY?: No sign of WR Lucky Whitehead at practice Tuesday and there’s no indication of when he’ll even be in Winnipeg. The team has yet to formally announce his addition, first reported by TSN’s Farhan Lalji and confirmed by the receiver himself on social media Saturday after the game in Calgary.

O’Shea was tight-lipped on Whitehead after practice Tuesday, saying only that he had no update on when he might be arriving and adding, “Like I’ve said, we like the guys we had in camp. When you bring a guy in who definitely has CFL experience and has been here before it’s really interesting but we’ve got to see where he’s at.”

Streveler, meanwhile, was clearly excited to add the veteran pass catcher to the receiving group.

Lucky Whitehead: ETA TBD

“Obviously I know Lucky — he was here, he’s a great guy,” Streveler said. “I sent him a message just saying we’re excited to have him and I know he’s bringing some good energy and you can always use that in the building. He’s a a great dude, a good teammate and we’re excited to have him.

“We know we’ve got some good young receivers here. Guys are having to step up and make plays. We’ve got some injuries and that’s the position we’re in. We all trust each other. We’re getting some extra throws after practice to try and speed up the process of gaining that chemistry. It’s a really great group of receivers, man. They work really hard, They put in the extra work with the vets so that we’re all on the same page. I really like those guys in that group.”

With Kenny Lawler, Dalton Schoen and Keric Wheatfall all on the six-game injured list the Blue Bombers starting receiving corps against the Stamps consisted of veterans Nic Demski and Drew Wolitarsky, second-year Canadian Jeremy Murphy and CFL rookies Pokey Wilson and Josh Johnson. Murphy was injured in the game and replaced by Kevens Clercius.

The club did re-sign receiver/returner Kody Case, injured in camp, and added him to the practice roster this week and Myron Mitchell and Ravi Alston are also available. The receiving corps on Tuesday featured Demski, Wolitarsky, Wilson, Johnson and Clercius, with Case, Mitchell and Alston also getting reps.

As we pointed out in this week’s Upon Further Review, Wolitarsky and Demski accounted for 10 of the 22 completions on Saturday with running back Brady Oliveira adding five catches and fullback Bailey Feltmate chipping in with one. Wilson, Johnson and Clercius each had two receptions.

“They worked hard and took some of the little nuances of the game and tried to apply it,” said O’Shea of the new receivers. ” I thought they tried to ‘Waggle’ hard, I thought they tried to tear up turf when they were running and to do that they have to have an idea of what they’re doing. I don’t think it was perfect, but I liked what they could do once they got a ball in their hands and I liked how they worked when it wasn’t in their hands.

“Everybody on the entire team can improve some aspect of their game.”

FYI: Also not practising on Tuesday beside Collaros and Murphy were DB Evan Holm and OL Tui Eli while DE TyJuan Garbutt, who is on the six-game injured list, was back as a full participant… O’Shea when asked if the closes losses of late — three by a combined total of nine points — were taking a toll: “I imagine. But by toll, do you mean does it accumulate? I don’t think so. They’re pretty good at getting rid of it. I mean, in any contact sport, you better move on and have your focus on the task at hand or else somebody’s going to whack ya. So I don’t think a tight loss, or a big loss… you just can’t afford to hang onto them for too long.”