BOMBSHELLS: Adding Rose a win-win situation for Blue Bombers … Augustine earns more touches after strong runs against Lions

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The way Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall sees it, when a player the calibre of Winston Rose wants to play for your team, you find a place for him.

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Rose, a 27-year-old cornerback who was a CFL all-star in 2019, approached the Bombers about a return last month after getting cut by the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bombers signed him and this week in practice he joined a defence that is already the CFL’s best and is putting up historic numbers, with the team sporting a 10-1 record and already assured of a home playoff game.

“Him coming back to Winnipeg makes us a stronger football team,” Hall said Wednesday after the Bombers held a closed practice at IG Field.

“We already have a good team, but it makes us better because of his familiarity with the defence and his play. We have a good problem to have. You can never have too many good ball players. And the key thing is, not only is he a good ball player, but he wants to be here. The guys here have welcomed him with open arms, young and veteran players, so it’s a win-win situation for him and us.”

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Rose led the CFL with nine interceptions in 2019 and helped the Bombers win the Grey Cup. At his first practice on Tuesday, Rose was back at his familiar boundary corner position and other defensive backs had been moved around.

Hall has to make sure he can add Rose into an already stacked line-up without messing with the team’s chemistry or angering some of the other players.

“I’m not worried about it upsetting the apple cart,” Hall said. “Just because of the foundation that coach (Mike) O’Shea has established in the locker room. I think it’s a very good locker room and it’s gonna take a lot to upset the apple cart, just because of the leaders that we have and just the foundation that has been built over the last couple of years.

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“Players that come in here, whether they’ve been here for a while or are new players, they understand what we have in the locker room, beyond what goes on the football field, and they want to be a part of it. If they want to be a part of it, then that’s very positive for us.”

HERE’S JOHNNY

When Johnny Augustine touches the football, good things generally happen for the Bombers.

Augustine is the third-string running back, who gets in the lineup every week by being strong on special teams, and it’s a rare occasion when he actually gets to carry the football.

One such occasion was in the 45-0 win over the B.C. Lions on Oct. 23, when Augustine spelled off starter Brady Oliveira and rushed four times for 73 yards, breaking one for 55 on his first touch.

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Oliveira was starting because first-string running back and perennial all-star Andrew Harris is out with a knee injury.

So it takes quite a lot to happen for Augustine to get the rock, but as he has shown since joining the Bombers in 2018, he can produce. The 28-year-old has 369 yards on 50 career carries, an impressive average of 7.1 yards per rush.

“It feels good just because it’s not just for me, but for my teammates,” Augustine said Wednesday. “How much they jump up and get so excited for those runs, I thrive off that. Coach O’Shea always says how impactful it is for the team.

“Every opportunity given, I just take it. Whether I’m starting, whether I’m not, it’s the same mindset, the same process. I just want to be in a position where, if I’m thrust into that role, or given more carries, I want to make sure I’m not letting my team down by not being prepared.”

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It would not be surprising to see Augustine get more opportunities as the season winds down. The Bombers have three games remaining (against Montreal at IG Field on Saturday, in Montreal on Nov. 13 and in Calgary on Nov. 20) and have already clinched an appearance in the West Final, at IG Field, on Dec. 5.

The Bombers are taking it slow with Harris and have the luxury of using both Oliveira and Augustine in his absence.

Regardless of how it plays out, Augustine is ready to do his part.

“This is a team sport and there’s only one ball,” he said. “I understand I can’t control everything and just to be a part of this organization and this team, anything they tell me to do, I’m gonna do. I love playing special teams and I’m having an amazing time doing it this year. It’s something that I really cherish and special teams are a huge phase of the game. When I’m not running the ball, I’m giving it all I can on special teams.

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“Truth be told, every week I hope I get a chance to carry the ball. It’s tough at times, I’m not gonna lie, especially now with this being my fourth season — I want to get more chances — but I just continue to work hard and whatever they ask me to do, I’m gonna do.”

PLAYER OF THE MONTH

Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros was named one of the CFL’s top performers for the month of October on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old led the Bombers to a 4-0 record, completing 75 of 104 pass attempts for 1,101 yards and eight touchdowns, with only two interceptions.

A strong candidate for the CFL’s most outstanding player award at season’s end, Collaros now has a 14-1 record as Winnipeg’s quarterback, dating back to the 2019 season.

“He’s seeing things really good right now and he’s playing with confidence,” Bombers offensive co-ordinator Buck Pierce said.

“He’s owning the offence, owning what we’re trying to do every week, understanding the plan, understanding the big picture of what we have to do to win the football game. The complete command of everybody out there and you’ve seen that growth throughout the course of the year. To see him really start to take off, make decisions quicker, see the pictures cleaner, being on the same page with everybody on the field, it’s been very exciting to watch. All the credit to him and his teammates for getting to where we are right now.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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