There was a chill in the air Friday morning and Blue Bombers running back Brady Oliveira was relishing the possibilities.
“I think as a running back you should be excited about cold-weather games, because the majority of the time you’re probably gonna get lots of opportunities to carry the ball and pound the ball on your opponent,” said the Winnipeg running back.
“I think when you get super cold, that’s when you’ve gotta line up and we’re gonna see who’s tough out there and who really wants to play ball at this time of year.”
The temperature hovered around the 4 C mark during Friday’s pre-game walkthrough at IG Field. It will be closer to zero when the Blue Bombers face the B.C. Lions at 6 p.m. Saturday.
What better time to give added priority to Winnipeg’s vaunted run game?
Oliveira, a second-year player out of the University of North Dakota, is coming off one of the most productive games of his pro career. He rumbled for 105 yards on 16 carries in relief of injured starter Andrew Harris during a 26-16 victory over the Edmonton Elks in Week 11.
“Any position, if you’re No. 2 on the depth chart you know you’re one play away from going in,” said Oliveira. “You really have to stay mentally locked in and stay sharp because you never know when your opportunity and your time is gonna come.”
Harris (knee) was placed on the six-game injured list this week and won’t play Saturday, leaving Oliveira to make his fourth career start. The 24-year-old local product likes the idea of using his 5-10, 227-pound frame to punish the B.C. defence.
“When it’s cold, I don’t know if the defenders are going to want to tackle a running back that runs out hard,” said Oliveira.
Oliveira, who had his rookie season in 2019 cut short due to a fractured ankle, is becoming more versatile in the pro game. He has 300 rushing yards on 61 carries and 54 yards on eight receptions while also refining his contributions to pass protection.
“The sky’s the limit for me,” said Oliveira. “… Running backs get asked to block in this league not just run the ball and I think I’ve gone out there and (done) a great job (of) stepping up in the pocket and blocking for (quarterback) Zach (Collaros) and catching the ball out of the backfield and also running the ball.”
Head coach Mike O’Shea has been pleased with the club’s depth at the running back position— with Oliveira first off the bench and fellow Canadian Johnny Augustine is the No. 3 man.
“They’ve both proven when they’ve gotten the opportunity that they can handle the load,” said O’Shea.
With Harris sidelined with a training camp injury, Oliveira started the first three games of the regular season and said the experience has been invaluable.
“I practise really hard and I think my eyes are getting a lot better with my reads and everything is just slowing down for me it seems like,” said Oliveira. “I’m definitely a lot more comfortable now.”
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