Will Andrew Harris play?
That question likely won’t be answered until roughly an hour before kickoff as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have listed their star running back as a game-time decision for Sunday’s West Final against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at IG Field.
Harris was a full participant in Wednesday’s practise, his first taste of action since injuring his knee on Oct. 15 in a game against the Edmonton Elks. Thursday’s practise was closed to the media and head coach Mike O’Shea said Harris was limited. As for Friday, Harris was in street clothes and watched Brady Oliveira take majority of the first-team reps.
For what it’s worth, when Harris made his season debut in Week 4 after missing most of training camp and the first three games with a calf injury, the 34-year-old hadn’t practised at all that week.
O’Shea was asked who has the final say on Harris’s status for the meeting with the Riders.
“Well, I guess it would be me. But I don’t ever, it’s not a dictatorship here, right? We take in information, we talk to the player, we talk to Al (Couture, head athletic therapist) and we come to a good decision for the team,” O’Shea said after Saturday’s closed walk-through session.
“So that’s how they all work. Ultimately, if he was cleared, then ultimately it’s my decision, right, to come to see what’s best for the team at this point.”
Riderville isn’t buying it. Saskatchewan head coach Craig Dickenson fully expects to see No. 33 suit up for Winnipeg.
“Harris, I think he’s still an elite running back, there’s no question about it. But it’s the five guys in front of them that really do a great job,” Dickenson said.
“… Whether you see Harris, Oliveira, or even Johnny Augustine, they’re going to run the ball well because they have such a good offensive line… But I think Harris gives them a little emotional energy. I sense he’s one of their spiritual leaders, so to speak. He really brings out the best in their team. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play tomorrow. I think he will.”
Oliveira and Augustine have shined when given opportunities, but quarterback Zach Collaros believes Harris brings more to the table than rushing and receiving yards. Collaros was also encouraged by what he saw from Harris in the running back’s limited practice time this week.
“I think if Andrew’s out there, he brings a calmness to the group, the huddle, to the sideline, to the locker room. A quiet confidence and when he gets really rolling he’s tough to stop,” Collaros said.
“He’s at a PhD level when it comes to experience in this league and protections and all those good things. It will be great to have him out there and I guess we’re gonna see in the morning.”
As for the idea of using Harris in a limited capacity, O’Shea quickly shot that down.
“You know, we don’t really work that way. If you’re going to be cleared, you’re going to be cleared for the entire game,” O’Shea said.
“There’s no ‘I can play 10 plays’ or ‘I can play this many snaps’ or ‘I can play but I’m not playing special teams.’ It doesn’t work that way. If you’re good to go, you’re good to go.”
Assuming Harris plays, the Bombers head into today’s contest at full strength as all of the usual suspects will be in the lineup.
THE WAIT IS FINALLY OVER
The Bombers have known for the past 42 days that they’d be hosting the West Division’s championship game.
Whether that’s a blessing or a curse remains to be seen, but Collaros believes they’ve done all the right things to set themselves up for post-season success since then.
“I think we’ve handled it really well. I thought we had really good practices during the bye week and leading up to the game this week. We took advantage of the position we were in leading up to this,” Collaros said.
“Everybody was excited to get out there and play. It feels like we’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Saskatchewan is a great opponent and we’re gonna have to play really well to win the game, but I know guys are really excited to get out there in front of our fans.”
As of Saturday afternoon, the Bombers had sold roughly 31,000 tickets for the West Final, only 2,000 tickets shy of reaching IG Field’s capacity.
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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