BOMBSHELLS: All-star cornerback Rose feels the love upon return to Blue Bombers

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When he walked onto the turf at IG Field for practice on Tuesday, for the first time in 2021, Winston Rose felt like he was home.

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The American defensive back, who spent much of the last two years with the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL, returned to the Bombers for the CFL stretch drive after leading the league in interceptions in 2019 and helping the team win the Grey Cup.

He was right back at his boundary cornerback position on Tuesday and could make his 2021 debut as soon as Saturday, when the Bombers host the Montreal Alouettes.

“Honestly, when I walked into the locker room yesterday for the first time and was talking to all of my teammates, meeting some new ones, talking to the coaches, it was actually feeling like I was coming back home,” Rose said. “I’m saying it was that warm welcome and I was just feeling all the love and feeling wanted.

“I really feel the love here. Even from the new coaches, I genuinely feel the love here and that’s pretty much like all you can ask for as a player. There’s nothing more that you want. You can go out there and just play, just gonna play for the team, the city, and your brothers. Winnipeg is the place, man.”

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Rose, 27, started two games for the Bengals in 2020, but was cut shortly after training camp this year. He’s been at home waiting on another NFL opportunity but finally decided to pick up the phone and inquire about a possible return to the Bombers.

Defensive back Winston Rose speaks with a teammate during Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.
Defensive back Winston Rose speaks with a teammate during Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Photo by KEVIN KING /Winnipeg Sun

It didn’t take long for the Bombers to welcome him back.

Winnipeg’s defence has been incredible this season — a huge part of the reason why the team is 10-1 and has already locked up a spot in the West Final — and the expectation is that Rose will only make it better.

He was working with the starters in the secondary on Tuesday, bumping rookie DeAundre Alford from boundary corner to field corner, and seemingly bumping second-year corner Mike Jones out of the lineup.

“Man, they’re having an unbelievable season … 10-1?” Rose said. “That’s something you can’t even think of. Especially like the last game they went and shut out the B.C. Lions (45-0). I know that’s very hard, especially in this league. It’s very hard to shut out a team. So man, I’m just coming in to do my part and just help the team. I don’t want to do nothing that they’re not doing already. I just want to add my piece to the puzzle.”

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HIGH ENERGY PRACTICE

Returning from a bye week on a cold November day, the Bombers had an energetic practice that quarterback Zach Collaros called “one of the best of the year.”

Running back Andrew Harris, who missed the last game and is on the six-game injured list with a knee issue, did not practice and it looks like Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine will be the ball carriers on Saturday against the 6-5 Alouettes.

Right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick was also a non-participant, although he was running around, but otherwise the Bombers seemed pretty healthy.

“Guys were out there, flying around, competing,” Collaros said. “You’re fresh coming off a seven- or eight-day break like that. It was a lot of energy, a lot of one vs. one competition and it was a great practice. It felt great being back in the building these last few days.”

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Collaros said having Rose, new kicker Sergio Castillo and running back Shaw Cooper at practice for the first time was energizing for the team, even though their arrivals meant six other players were released on Monday.

“Like I said, there was a lot of energy out on the field,” Collaros said. “It’s been great seeing (Castillo_. It’s been a long time since I was a teammate of his. Having Winston back in here was great. Just a lot of positive energy in here today.”

BABY ON THE WAY

Collaros said he would like to play in all of the Bombers remaining games (vs. Montreal Saturday, at Montreal on Nov. 13 and at Calgary on Nov. 20), although he understands the coaching staff may want to get a better look at backup Sean McGuire at some point.

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He may not have a choice, depending on how things go over the next couple weeks. His wife is due to have a baby very soon and it’s possible Collaros could miss a couple days at some point.

It certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing for Collaros to rest and, more importantly stay healthy, for the playoffs, but the Bombers are taking the approach that they need to keep their foot on the gas pedal with so much time left before the West Final.

Their games are all against teams that are battling for playoff positions.

“I think we’re well-equipped to handle it,” Collaros said. “We have a very veteran locker room and we’ll be ready for the challenge when it comes to the playoff game, for sure.”

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea has been adamant that the Bombers need to treat the remainder of the season as though they have not clinched anything.

He certainly understands there’s risk in playing key players when it’s not necessary, but he also knows how important it is to keep momentum going and never let up.

“The daily process is not going to change,” O’Shea said. “That’s one thing I can promise you. We’ll stick to the same routine every single day, the same practice schedules, the same meeting schedules and we’ll come up with a plan as we go forward.

“We’ve already had a lot of discussions about how we want to proceed, but in terms of me sharing that with you, that’s not gonna happen.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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