BOMBSHELLS: Bombers heading into training camp with question marks behind Collaros at quarterback

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If there’s one thing that’s keeping prognosticators around the country from picking the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to repeat as Grey Cup champions, it’s their lack of depth at the quarterback position.

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When the Bombers won the 2019 Canadian Football League championship, they had a 1-2 combination at quarterback, with both starter Zach Collaros and backup Chris Streveler taking a significant amount of reps.

In fact, Matt Nichols, Streveler and Collaros all started and won games for the Bombers that season.

Heading into the 2021 training camp, there’s no such luxury.

The Bombers re-signed Collaros to be their starter but lost Streveler to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. That leaves Sean McGuire, who has thrown a total of three CFL passes, as the backup to Collaros, a player with a long history of concussions and other injuries.

Newcomers Dalton Sneed (Montana) and Dru Brown (Oklahoma State) will also be in camp, looking to earn the backup job or at least a spot on the practice roster, but no one knows if they’ll have an aptitude for the Canadian game at this point.

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To be expected, Bombers general manager Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea say they are happy with the group they have heading into the opening of training camp on July 10, but from an outside perspective, it’s a little more difficult to share their optimism.

“We’re happy with the group of guys we’re bringing in,” Walters said. “(McGuire) made a real good impression on us (in 2019). It’s tough on a lot of young quarterbacks until they get thrown into the fire, to truly know. The way the season is set up this year, without pre-season games, I think the backup quarterbacks are the guys that are really gonna miss opportunities to get some valuable game time.

“But Sean made a good impression on us and we fully expect him to come in and grow in his second year. We’ve got a good group there, we’ve got a good room.”

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The Bombers are expected to have a veteran lineup that includes stars like running back Andrew Harris, receiver Darvin Adams, defensive end Willie Jefferson, linebacker Adam Bighill and offensive lineman Stanley Bryant.

But they could be one Collaros injury away from being left with an untested quarterback, and that could be a problem.

After three weeks of intense training camp — during which CFL players will try to make up for 18 months of lost time — Collaros, if healthy, will lead the Bombers into a 14-game season.

He has never lost a game as quarterback of the Bombers and led them to three playoff wins. Working with new offensive co-ordinator Buck Pierce, the belief is that Collaros can be protected and can be successful again.

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But even if he does go down, O’Shea believes he can help the team be successful.

“With Buck and Zach’s leadership, that room will grow and we believe (the backups) are quite capable of playing football and they’ll grow into the leaders that they need to be and the CFL pros they need to be,” O’Shea said.

YEAR OFF A HELP

Collaros has suffered at least five concussions during his nine-year CFL career and there’s always the concern that another one could end his playing days.

However, the 32-year-old has been feeling good since he joined the Bombers in October of 2019 and being away from the game for almost two years could be a good thing with regard to his health.

“I think (a year off) probably helps everybody, just being able to rest your body,” Collaros said. “I’m not a doctor so I don’t know, from a head and concussion perspective, if a year off or 10 years off or whatever, helps, so I’m not gonna pretend I know that answer.

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“From a standpoint of your body feeling a little bit better, it certainly helps. It will be interesting for everybody that hasn’t played for a year and a half to get out there and get hit again and the next morning you’ll definitely feel the soreness a little bit more.”

NO JOINT SCRIMMAGE

The Bombers tried their best to arrange a pre-season joint scrimmage with the Saskatchewan Roughriders but, in the end, the CFL and the league’s medical advisors would not allow it.

The practice was to have taken place in Regina on July 24, but it was deemed to be outside of league protocols with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the schedule came out, with no pre-season games, (Roughriders GM) Jeremy (O’Day) and myself and Mike (O’Shea) and (Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson) talked about how it makes perfect sense to investigate a scrimmage and at least throw some ideas around, if it was a possibility,” Walters said. “It was discussed, but ultimately it was not approved by the CFL and the medical team so there won’t be a scrimmage. We did discuss it and unfortunately, it wasn’t able to come to fruition. We’ll just follow what the medical guys tell us to do.”

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DISTANCING FROM 2019

About a month after the Bombers won the Grey Cup over Hamilton in Calgary in 2019, O’Shea said he was ready to move on to a new season and leave that memorable game in the past.

So, while members of the media refer to his team as being the defending champions for 2021, after the 2020 season was cancelled, it’s not the kind of language the coach uses.

“The idea every year is to go out and win a championship,” O’Shea said. “It’s not where it falls in the line of championships. I don’t think the (Edmonton football team) were talking about winning five in row (From 1978-1982), they were talking about winning one.

“Teams change and so does the messaging. It has to change too.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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