The Blue Bombers made one thing obvious this week: they’re not getting complacent.
The rich got richer as the Blue and Gold acquired not one, but two CFL all-stars this week in kicker Sergio Castillo and defensive back Winston Rose.
The Bombers shipped a fourth round pick to the B.C. Lions for Castillo, who spent last season in the NFL with the New York Jets, and signed Rose to a contract on Wednesday as the CFL’s 2019 interception leader (nine) was released by the Cincinnati Bengals last month.
“It says that we’re trying to win, we’re trying to be the best that we can be,” said Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill after Thursday’s practice at IG Field.
“We obviously know what Winston can bring, we obviously have seen what Sergio can do kicking the ball. We’re committed to winning here, so whatever it takes, you can see we’re doing it.”
It’s a strong response by the Bombers as they saw the Calgary Stampeders make a huge splash this week in bringing back defensive back Tre Roberson after a year and a half with the Chicago Bears. The Saskatchewan Roughriders also made some noise two weeks ago when they added star receiver Duke Williams who left Edmonton in 2019 to sign with the Buffalo Bills.
“I guess it partly says that we show a great commitment to trying to get better and playing winning football,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “When you realize you’ve got a good football team, you want to do what you can to ensure you keep playing good football.”
Ali Mourtada, who’s 8-for-15 on field goals this season, will kick for the Bombers on Saturday at home against the B.C. Lions. Castillo will join the Bombers after their Week 13 bye and will more than likely take over for Mourtada down the stretch. Rose will also be on the field after the bye, but it remains to be seen how the Bombers will use him. Rose played all 18 regular season games for the Bombers in 2019 en route to being named a league all-star, but the club has adjusted well to life without him as CFL newcomers Deatrick Nichols and DeAundre Alford have been brilliant in the secondary.
“I mean, he’s obviously a very good player, he led the league in interceptions when he was here,” O’Shea said.
“He did a lot of great things for us… It’s just another piece. Right now we don’t have to figure out where he goes but he’s a good football player and everybody on the team should be happy about playing with good football players.”
Bighill definitely is. The star linebacker referred to Rose as a “great pro, a great teammate, a great player.”
“I checked in with him, just as things were unfolding for him in the NFL. We let him know, ‘If anything doesn’t shake out, you’ve always got a home here,'” Bighill said.
Defensive back Mike Jones, who played with Rose in 2019, shares that same excitement, even though Rose could wind up taking someone’s spot.
“I’m not even thinking like that. I’ve got to play the next play, the next game. That’s the biggest game on our schedule and it’s the biggest game that we have up to date,” Jones said.
“We’re not really worried about where he’s gonna play, what he’s gonna do, because he’s not even in the locker room yet. I’ve got to worry about what’s going on now in the locker room and on the field.”
If anyone can relate to Rose and Castillo, it’s Bighill. He made the jump from the CFL to the NFL in 2017 when he signed a deal with the New Orleans Saints and then came back to the CFL in 2018 and has been playing for Winnipeg ever since.
“There’s advice from everybody who has come back from the NFL. You’ve got to come back with the same hunger and the same fire, the same chip on your shoulder, the same intensity,” Bighill said.
“You have to show up, get your mindset back into the CFL fold, how the game is different, how it works, and really just keep paying attention to what has made you a successful player, and don’t lose sight of that.”
CFL STATEMENT ON COVID-19 TESTING RESULTS
The CFL revealed on Thursday that between Weeks 6 and 11, the league administered approximately 14,200 COVID-19 tests to Tier 1 personnel (players, coaches, and support staff) and only four of those tests came back positive.
The league also announced eight-of-nine clubs have met the 85 per cent fully vaccinated milestone and that they anticipate 93 per cent of current players will be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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