Bombers’ return team yet to bust loose



Winnipeg’s return game has been underwhelming through the first three weeks of the CFL’s regular season and returner Charles Nelson is putting pressure on himself to show some improvement.

On Sunday, he gets another chance when the Blue Bombers host the Calgary Stampeders.

The 25-year-old from Daytona Beach, Fla., is averaging 8.9 yards on 16 punt returns, his longest going for 32 yards in Week 2 against the Toronto Argonauts. Nelson is also averaging 21.8 yards on six kickoff returns.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said the third-year veteran after practice Friday afternoon. “We haven’t busted one, we haven’t been playing to our full potential on punt returns or any return, honestly,” said Nelson. “But that’s what the beginning of the season is for. To learn each other and put ourselves in the best position to succeed as a unit.”

Nelson, who got the job when incumbent Janarion Grant landed on the six-game injured list, had his lowest output of the season in Week 3, grinding out a meagre 18 yards total on four punt returns. Argos punter Boris Bede proved hard to read in that game.

“It was a tough situation,” said Nelson. “He’s a really good kicker. He has a leg on him so we game-planned for me to stand at a certain depth and when he wasn’t hitting those balls he usually hit, it was just tough. So that’s something that I have to chalk up, put it in books and go forward.”

There was no sense of panic from head coach Mike O’Shea when asked about Winnipeg’s return game.

“We’re making some yards when there’s yards to be made,” said O’Shea. “… I just see it’s always a work in progress, especially when you have new players out there, guys that are new to the CFL and you’re trying to teach them to pick up the nuances of the special teams game.”

SCOUTING REPORT: The Stamps are full of respect for Winnipeg’s veteran defence.

“Their ends (Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat) are excellent,” said Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson during his Friday media availability. “(Adam) Bighill’s a great blitzer. He’s just great player so yeah it’s very challenging. They’ve had the top defence for the whole year.

“Toronto found a few things (in Week 3) but honestly… they basically were able to have the time of possession (edge) to have lots of chances on them. So it’s gonna be a tough one (Sunday), they force a lot of turnovers, too.”

OLD PRO: Fourth-year receiver Drew Wolitarsky hasn’t posted any big numbers yet (he has eight catches for 78 yards in three games) but he believes he has expanded his influence with the Bombers.

“I’m proud of the way I’ve grown this last year,” said Wolitarsky. “(It) definitely gave me a different perspective and I’m using my gifts… off the field. Just meeting with guys, keeping a calm level head on the sideline, making sure everyone knows what they’re doing, taking more of that, quote unquote, old man, leadership role, which is new for me.

“So I’m doing what I’ve got to do out here to win and swallow my pride, whatever that looks like… I’m here for my boys.”

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

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