Hardrick returning to Bombers O-line for Als tilt

Jermarcus Hardrick does not do injury rehab well.

The seven-year CFL veteran and a fixture on the Winnipeg offensive line for the last five seasons, admitted Thursday his patience was wearing thin during a recent three-game absence due to a hip ailment.

Fortunately, the wait is over. Hardrick expected to be starting at right tackle when the Bombers visit the Montreal Alouettes Saturday afternoon.

“It was burning me inside not to play, man,” Hardrick told reporters following practice Thursday. “I really wanted to be out there with the team and sometimes I wasn’t practising but I was jumping into practices, probably getting in the way, going at home, sitting in a the corner crying to myself and telling my wife, “I hope they don’t cut me.’

“I know there’s numerous times the team was having practice and I was just running through the middle of the field or go in and catch a ball for… a punt returner who’s really trying to practise. There’s a couple times my wife had to had to tell me to calm down.”

Hardrick is having nothing of the suggestion that the Week 15 matchup with the Alouettes is a meaningless.

Never mind that head coach Mike O’Shea, with his club having clinched top spot in the West Division, has elected to give backup quarterback Sean McGuire his first pro start. No. 1 man Zach Collaros will sit the game out.

“The game means a lot to us,” said Hardrick, 31. “We want to go 1-0 (this week). I know Zach’s not playing and guys are excited for Sean and he’s next man up and we’re gonna be excited man. I’m excited to see what Sean does… I want to start playing ball — you see the snow out there? It feels like football. It’s that time of the year.”

In Hardrick’s absence, Pat Neufeld moved from his guard spot to fill the vacancy at right tackle. Hardrick is an old pro but McGuire’s first start has triggered a lot of curiosity.

Winnipeg offensive co-ordinator Buck Pierce is supremely comfortable giving the 25-year-old control of the offence.

“I think that’s the first thing that jumps out (is) he can throw the football,” said Pierce. “Mechanically he’s very sound fundamentally. He’s very good, very poised and a competitor. He takes command of the a huddle when he’s out there, he speaks with confidence and he plays with confidence.”

While O’Shea was content to announce McGuire’s starting assignment three days before the Montreal game, he wasn’t as forthcoming about any other lineup changes he’s considering.

Will more veterans be rested in a game that has no playoff implications for the Blue Bombers?

“We just want to stick to the process that we’ve developed over the years,” said O’Shea. “You know, it’s interesting, because even today we changed a couple of decisions right during practice… That’s our right to make those changes and it’s just interesting how sometimes the decisions take longer than than others.”

STOPPING STANBACK? Montreal rolled up 302 total yards on offence against Winnipeg in Week 14, including a 16-carry, 106-yard output from the league’s runaway rushing leader William Stanback.

Blue Bombers defensive co-ordinator Ritchie Hall played downs the significance of Stanback’s outburst, noting most of his total came on longer runs of 34 and 19 yards.

“He had a couple of explosion runs where we just weren’t where we supposed to be,” said Hall. “I think other than three runs, I thought we did a decent job against him… We have to have quicker support but we also have to be able to take on blocks at the line of scrimmage.”

The league’s top-rated defence will need to up its game, Hall admitted.

“I think when you when you look at the game, other than two drives, the guys did a pretty good job, you know?” said Hall. “It’s something that they’re not satisfied with what what occurred, they were happy that we won the football game… but they know and they understand that we have to play better in order for us to get to where we want to be.”

AWARDS SEASON: With two regular-season games remaining, O’Shea was asked if he had any thoughts on the team nominee for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player this season.

Linebacker Adam Bighill and defensive ends Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat would all be worthy candidates.

“I haven’t actually thought about it at all,” said O’Shea. “To me, it’s not one of those things that’s really important right now… Maybe when I take a good hard look at it, maybe I’ll just abstain.”

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

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