Bombers top receiver Lawler trying to move past glaring drops

Article content

Kenny Lawler has more catches than any other player in the CFL this season, but the passes he didn’t snag grabbed more of people’s attention in recent weeks.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Lawler, a 27-year-old, second-year receiver with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, is having a highly productive season through four games.

He has a league-high 26 catches — four more than anyone else — and is third in the CFL with 323 receiving yards. He also has two touchdowns.

But Lawler also had four glaring drops in the last two games, all on plays that would have extended drives, and the son of a football coach from California is not letting himself off easy.

“I really pride myself on being a sure-handed receiver and the last two games I had four drops,” Lawler said in a one-on-one interview over the phone Tuesday.

“That’s not very sure-handed. It’s something I’m definitely gonna fix.

“I’m very critical of myself. I demand the best of myself, especially when my teammates are counting on me.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Lawler had six catches for 94 yards in Sunday’s 18-16 win over the Calgary Stampeders. He has become the go-to guy for Bombers’ quarterback Zach Collaros and his offensive production certainly outweighs the mistakes.

However, sometimes it’s not that simple for a player to simply push obvious errors aside.

“It turns into a mental game at that point,” Lawler said. “Everyone’s watching me and I just made a mistake, I’m thinking about it, and it kinda can stress you out mentally. You’ve got to be mentally strong to be able to regain your focus, remember that you’re a good player, that you’ve got good hands and you’re gonna try to catch the next one.

“It’s hard getting over drops, especially drops like the one I had the other day that could potentially have been a big gainer. It’s hard, but it’s the beauty of the sport, being able to go into the next week and just get better at what you love to do.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

The good news for Lawler was that Collaros kept coming back to him even after his second glaring drop of the evening on Sunday. Lawler made a couple of catches in traffic that drew praise from head coach Mike O’Shea and from the quarterback, who has been nothing but supportive.

“It tells me that Zach has a great amount of confidence in me and he trusts me even if I do make a mistake,” Lawler said. “We’re all human, not everyone is perfect, and with Zach coming back to me right after a big-time drop, it just shows that he trusts me, that he wants to get the ball in my hands and that he doesn’t want me focusing on the drops.

“He came to me and said ‘Don’t worry, you’re gonna get it back.’ Sure enough, right after, he throws me the ball again. That’s big.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

On Monday, the Bombers signed veteran receiver Namaan Roosevelt, who spent five seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and had more than 1,000 receiving yards on two occasions. Roosevelt had been a free agent since the end of training camp, when he was released by the Montreal Alouettes.

How Roosevelt will fit in is not yet known. Americans Lawler and Rasheed Bailey have been putting up good numbers, while Darvin Adams is just working his way back to form after missing four weeks with a shoulder injury.

The Bombers normally start two Canadians — Nic Demski and Drew Wolitarsky — but Demski has been out with a hip injury the last two weeks. American Kelvin McKnight started in place of Demski and that could be a natural spot for Roosevelt if Demski is out for more time.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

However, the signing also has to put the other American receivers on notice. An abundance of drops could mean a reduction in playing time.

“I’m familiar with his success in the league and I feel like it adds depth,” Lawler said. “It’s a long season and there’s gonna be times we need people to come in and contribute. Signing Namaan, I feel like he’s gonna be someone who is definitely coming in to contribute when called upon.

“He’s a veteran, he’s had 1,000 yards receiving in this league and, man, he can come in and contribute a lot to this receiver position, just with his experience and all the things he knows about the game.”

While it’s hard for Lawler, and fans of the Bombers, not to focus on the drops, he truly is having a fine season overall. His numbers put him up with the elite receivers in the CFL and that’s precisely where he wants to be.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

“I’m definitely proud of that,” Lawler said. “I definitely came in and put in the work and trained hard to be able to call myself a top-3 receiver in the league. Just being the true competitor that I am and the person I want to become — one of the greatest to ever do it in this game — I’m very critical of myself.

“When it comes to catching I believe it’s 100% confidence in your hands, confidence within yourself, that you’re gonna go catch this ball. Going into certain plays I felt like I lacked a little confidence within my hands, just hand placement. That’s a big one and you have to be confident in where you want your hands to be. It’s just the little things I just, in the split second, really have to focus on.”

Bailey impresses with increased workload in Bombers offence

It took Rasheed Bailey a long time to finally make it as a professional football player and now that he’s done it, he’s making the most of the opportunity.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

The 28-year-old Bailey spent time on practice rosters with eight different teams — six in the NFL — before finally getting into the lineup with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2019.

After getting his feet wet late in the 2019 season and during the Bombers’ run to the Grey Cup, Bailey earned a starting job in training camp this year and he’s off to strong start through four games of the CFL season.

He has 15 catches and two touchdowns, and his 209 receiving yards put him seventh among all CFL pass-catchers.

Bailey had his best game as a pro Sunday in an 18-16 win over the Calgary Stampeders, hauling in four passes for 108 yards.

“That’s my dog right there,” fellow Bombers’ receiver Kenny Lawler said Tuesday. “We all knew he had it in him. It was one of those things last year where everyone was doing their job and we were having some success and where do we find a spot to put another receiver in on the field?

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

“It wasn’t anything that was keeping him off the field other than it’s a numbers game. Rasheed has always been a workhorse, he’s always made plays, and now he’s getting to do it in front of the cameras, in big-time situations. It’s a blessing to be able to see that.”

Lawler ‘Can’t wait’ to play Riders in raucous Mosaic Stadium

The defending Grey Cup champions handled themselves reasonably well in the first four games of the 2021 CFL season, but things are about to get much more challenging for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Sitting at 3-1, the Bombers’ next two games will be against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who have played all of their games at home and are a perfect 3-0.

The first game will be played Sunday in the hostile environment of Mosaic Stadium in the annual Labour Day Classic, a game the Bombers rarely win.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

But that doesn’t mean the players dislike playing in Regina.

“Man, it’s gonna be a good series,” Bombers’ receiver Kenny Lawler said Tuesday. “It’s gonna be a lot of emotion, a lot of feelings during this game. I love playing at Mosaic Stadium. It’s loud, the atmosphere is great and what more can you ask than to be able to play on prime time TV, against a good opponent, in a great football atmosphere. I look forward to it. I can’t wait to go out there. As a football player, these are the kinds of things you look forward to.”

The two teams will meet again on Sept. 11 at IG Field and the two games could go a long way toward determining first place in the CFL West Division.

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

Advertisement

Story continues below

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

View original article here Source