BAD news for the rest of the CFL: the first-place Blue Bombers are about to get even better.
In Week 1’s victory at home over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Blue and Gold lost both kick returner Janarion Grant and defensive tackle Steven Richardson to injury.
Neither has played since.
The Bombers have managed to win without their services as the team boasts a 6-1 record, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been missed.
Winnipeg’s return game has been extremely flat without Grant. Charles Nelson has struggled to fill Grant’s shoes as he’s averaging 8.0 yards per punt return which is 15th best in the league. He hasn’t done any better on kick returns as his 18.7 yards per return isn’t even top 20.
Grant, who got injured after a Hamilton defender fell on his right leg, was a full participant in Monday’s practice as he was catching passes and fielding punts. In typical Mike O’Shea fashion, the head coach wouldn’t say if Grant’s good to go for Friday’s tilt at B.C. Place against the Lions, but all signs point to the dangerous return man being cleared to suit up.
“I’m very excited. I feel blessed. You know, just missing the guys out there. I was feeling out of place not being out there, but I’m back out there getting into motion, getting into a groove, so I feel great,” said Grant, who had three punt return touchdowns in 11 games in 2019.
Richardson, a University of Minnesota product who partially tore the plantar fascia in his foot, was also a full participant and said he’s ready to play Friday. The Bombers have been keeping the opposition off the scoreboard, but they have had a difficult time stopping the run as they’ve given up a league-high 746 yards on the ground.
Richardson said he hopes to change that.
“I would consider myself one of the better defensive tackles, at least for stopping the run. I’ll give myself that if I give myself anything. There’s always things I can work on. I mean, I only played one game, I haven’t proved anything,” he said. “… Being out, it really hurt, but it’s only added fuel to the fire.”
Linebacker Kyrie Wilson hasn’t played a game all season but on Monday he showed signs that he’s nearing a return. Defensive back Redha Kramdi has been sidelined since Week 2 but the Montreal native was a full participant. Veteran defensive back Josh Johnson, who also went down in Week 1, was dressed on Monday but remains very limited.
CRAPIGNA UPDATE PLUS NEW KICKER DISCUSSES MISSES
A name on the injured list that was nowhere to be seen was veteran Canadian kicker Tyler Crapigna. The 29-year-old out of McMaster University was placed on the six-game injured list with a hamstring injury after three games. O’Shea said Crapigna is at home rehabbing and wouldn’t say if he will be returning to the team this season.
“I don’t see him being an option for us in the near future, no,” said O’Shea.
With Crapigna out of the picture, American kicker Ali Mourtada has a chance to run away with the job. The 31-year-old former Indoor Football League kicker got off to the wrong foot as he went 0-for-3 on field goal attempts in a 37-22 road victory over the Edmonton Elks in his CFL debut in Week 7. Mourtada spent the bye week in Winnipeg trying to get back on track.
Mourtada was asked if he was worried about his job security after the game.
“The thoughts can definitely go through your head, but you learn what you can control and what you can’t control,” Mourtada said Monday.
“I can control learning from those mistakes and getting right back to work so if the opportunity is there, I’m ready and I’m prepared. There’s not a lot of time to feel bad for yourself.”
Mourtada’s critics were loud on social media, and he figured they would be, so he instructed his family to stay away. But someone who didn’t criticize Mourtada after the game was O’Shea as the coach downplayed the misses and made it clear that he still has confidence in the kicker.
“It meant a lot having coach say those things,” said Mourtada.
“We discussed what went wrong, what went right, and what was nice was I think he saw what I felt and that was good to know, for sure.”
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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