5 Quick Hits on Day 14 of Blue Bombers training camp:
1. DIME BACK WANTED, APPLY WITHIN: The week began with veteran defensive back Mercy Maston being lost for the season with an Achilles injury. The club made a trade to land Alden Darby from the Toronto Argonauts a day later as a possible candidate to replace Maston, but some of the new faces are starting to settle in now, too, and are flashing their skills.
“It’s a big loss,” said Bombers defensive coordinator Richie Hall of the injury to Maston. “It’s a big loss when you lose a starter and you lose a veteran and you lose someone who has an impact. He played an impactful position. His teammates liked playing with him he’s aggressive and he had everything we wanted in that dime.
“What we’re looking for is some person to come and fulfill the responsibilities of what they do but at the same time bring their own flavour. It’s not about comparing Masty to whoever plays that position, it’s what can they do to help improve our football team. We’re not asking them to be Masty, we’re asking them to make an impact at that position… our calls will still be the same, but they have to take the skillset to the table and compliment what’s currently going on.
“He has big shoes to fill. Anytime you have a veteran and made the impact he did, that’s tough but we’re asking that person to do what they do and be responsible for their responsibilities.”
Darby would certainly be a candidate to slide in and replace Maston because of his experience, but others are in the mix, too, as Hall and the defensive staff move just about all of their DBs in and out of spots all over the secondary.
“We’re rotating guys in there,” he said. “There’s probably about five or six guys that we’re continuing to get a look at. It’s a different position and we know it’s a different challenge for those players but at the same time it’s an opportunity. So what we’re trying to do is put people in there to give them an opportunity to be on this football team.
“It’s a challenging spot, but I like the competition. It’s going to be really interesting to see who we finally settle with.”
2. FYI: Friday’s session opened with Andrew Harris back on the field and getting some reps with the starting offence. That workload tapered off as the practice continued, with Brady Oliveira, Kyle Borsa and Devonte Williams getting more and more reps… The list of players not practising grows. Among those watching on Friday were LBs Kyrie Wilson, Jesse Briggs and Robbie Lowes, RB Johnny Augustine, receivers Cam Meredith, Charles Nelson, Rasheed Bailey, Brendan O’Leary-Orange, DBs Alden Darby, Brandon Alexander, Nick Taylor and Sam Williams and OL Dino Boyd… With Adams and Bailey out, Kelvin McKnight and Carlton Agudosi got a ton of work with the 1s on offence. McKnight had the catch of the day on a perfect through from Zach Collaros… There were a number of players lining up to return punts on Friday, including receivers Janarion Grant, McKnight, Davon Grayson, Montay Crockett and Deontez Alexander, defensive back Mazzi Wilkins and RB Devonte Williams… Adam Bighill on the Bombers D-line: “Our front is absolutely scary, that’s for sure.”
3. A BIGGIE LEGACY: Adam Bighill hasn’t missed any time in training camp and doesn’t plan on taking a day any time soon.
“I’ve just never been a guy that takes days. Never have been,” he said Friday. “My motor and my mentality is to be on the field, so I ain’t going to come off the field unless I’m pulled off by Al (Couture, Head Athletic Therapist), and even them I’m trying to fight him.”
Bighill has twice been named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player (2015, 2018) and is a five-time CFL All-Star. He’s spoken about establishing his legacy in the game before, and spoke again on Friday about how that is a motivating factor for him at this stage of his career.
“When I came into the CFL my first goal was to play professional football,” he said. “That was my goal growing up as a kid. I realize now that I’m here that I have to set new goals, new dreams and work towards those things. My goal in ’11 was to be one of the best players to ever play the game. That is a legacy and it’s something that is definitely motivating. You can’t look at this as one big picture. It’s literally year by year, but more importantly day by day.
“Every single day it takes work and preparation and commitment and discipline to get there. That’s how I’m writing my legacy.”
One more from Bighill, who took a big pay cut in the offseason — as did many others — as the league looks to regain its footing in 2021. He was asked if that had him wanting to prove something this season.
“I’m always trying to prove something,” he said. “For my situation, it obviously wasn’t ideal. I’m going to play to the level I always play and when we get back to a normal year I anticipate my play is going to reflect in my next contract. I’m out here to be the best football player I can be, one of the best to ever do it, and my work and everything that goes into playing this game, that’s what I play for.
“The contract states what the contract states, but still I’m going to play and do what I do.”
4. SITUATIONAL FOOTBALL: With no preseason games this year, some CFL teams are planning intra-squad scrimmages. The Bombers don’t plan on doing that. Instead, they practice situational football daily.
“What we’ve been doing is where we get our work in,” O’Shea explained. “I haven’t really ever had what you would call a game deal. We try to put them in scenarios in all the competitive periods. We move the ball up and down the field. We put the offence backed up on the one (yard line). We put the defence backed up on the one. We put them in different scenarios and talk about the different scenarios before we start the period.
“We have had in the last three or four practices some competitive full team-on-team special-teams periods to help evaluate and help get the pictures right so that they are going full speed. Obviously, there’s no tackling going on, but that’s not really going on for anybody. I don’t think anybody, even in an intra-squad game, are going to tackle anybody to the ground.
“We do feel that we get that work in and we do have a veteran enough squad that the game-operation stuff is maybe a little less of a focal point,” he added. “If you had a really raw squad you’d want to put them in situations where you’re showing them the transition to a punt team, to a special team and talk about that. Each group also does football IQ in their meetings where they talk about scenarios, timing and rules. Our coaches do a great job of making sure they’re keeping up on the IQ.”
5. SPEAKING OF WHICH…: One of the most-unique situations coaches practice is the kick-in/kick out scenario that occasionally happens near the end of a close game. O’Shea was part of one when he was the special-teams coach in Toronto.
And it’s so foreign to American players because the rouge doesn’t exist down south it’s almost comical to study their reaction when they first see it.
“”We usually install something like that a few days ahead (of practising it), so they saw the film of that a few days ago,” O’Shea said. “If you had seen the reaction in the film room… that would have been interesting to tape. We don’t generally put new guys in that situation just because it’s so foreign to them.
“As a matter of a fact, that kick-in/kick-out period we had today was the cleanest, the best I’ve ever seen. Usually a guy kicks the ball and it goes backwards… it’s just a Charlie Brown-circus kind of thing. The ball flights, the receptions, the kick back in it was unbelievable how many times it went and how well it went. I was shocked. Jake Thomas said that was the best one he’s ever seen. I tend to agree.”
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