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Noeller

Mini Camp

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...opening Wednesday in Florida. Ted Wyman:

 

BRADENTON, Fla. — Unable to secure a big-play receiver through free agency, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will have to go the in-house route to fill a void that haunted them last season.

The process of unearthing that potential gem started last year when the Bombers brought in promising but CFL-untested receivers Corey Washington, Kenbrell Thompkins, Charles Nelson and Kenny Lawler.

It continues Wednesday and Thursday, when the Bombers’ scouts, coaches and management will take a look at 15 American receivers at a free-agent camp here at the IMG Academy.

It’s expected about seven of those pass-catchers will move on to the Bombers main camp — assuming the league’s labour impasse is resolved — in May.

“It’s generally a passing thing and that won’t change,” Bombers general manager Kyle Walters said of the mini-camp. “It’s heavily loaded on receivers and defensive backs.

“The goal is to find receivers who can help right away but the track record of the CFL shows that for a rookie receiver to come in and learn the playbook in a two-week training camp, it’s very difficult. When we look at these receivers, it’s less about ‘We think he’s gonna come in and start Day 1,’ it’s ‘We think this guy’s got a chance at some point during the year, once he learns everything and figures out what he’s supposed to do.’”

Of the 38 players invited to the camp, 29 will be either receivers or defensive backs. There will also be two quarterbacks, three running backs and four linebackers.

There will be no linemen or kickers and all of the players in the camp are true American rookies. Some are under contract, others are neg-list players, and still more are free agents who are in on a tryout basis.

The Bombers already have 16 receivers under contract and nine of them were with the team last year. However, only three of those players — Darvin Adams, Drew Wolitarsky and Nic Demski — were season-long starters.

Thompkins saw the most playing time among the others, making 29 catches for 421 yards and one touchdown in 12 games, while Washington got into three games and Nelson got into one. The Bombers also have second-year Canadians Daniel Petermann and Rashaun Simonise in the mix and both should push for more playing time.

In all likelihood, one or two of those players will be starters in 2019, though there is certain to be fierce competition throughout this mini-camp and the full training camp.

“The biggest one for the receivers this year is the guys who we had last year that were all in their first year and ended the year with the team,” Walters said. “Those are the guys I expect to step forward. Guys like Corey Washington, Kenbrell Thompkins, Charles Nelson, Kenny Lawler. Those guys made good impressions on us last year in their first year and we expect them to make the big jump. They were the names last year that jumped out. I think those are the young guys that are going to have the advantage, strictly based on seniority.”

On the other side of the ball, the Bombers have a whopping 21 defensive backs under contract and nine of them are returning. With the departures of Chris Randle (released, signed with Ottawa), Kevin Fogg (signed as free agent with Toronto) and Taylor Loffler (signed as free agent with Montreal), the Bombers have holes to fill, but have a decent base with veterans Brandon Alexander, Marcus Sayles, Anthony Gaitor, Chandler Fenner and Jeff Hecht all returning.

“We hope there are some tough decisions at the end of this because that means we’ve got a lot of good guys and only a few of them are able to make it to training camp,” Walters said.

“We do want to see guys physically taxed for a couple of days. We want to put them through the fitness tests and give them the once-over. A big part of this is to see who can handle the fitness component. If you struggle getting through a couple-day camp, with full training camp just three weeks away … they need to be in good shape and be ready to compete, which will be a big part of the evaluation process.”

This is the first time in five years that the Bombers have held their mini-camp in Florida. For the last few years, the camp has been held at Investors Group Field and has included a mix of American and Canadian rookies, all of the quarterbacks and some veterans.

Because of the contentious collective bargaining agreement negotiations between the CFL and the Players Association, this year’s camp is limited to first-year players.

That means the quarterbacks in mini-camp will be rookie Bryan Schor from James Madison and another pivot that will be added at the last minute.

“They’ll get plenty of work,” Walters said. “I said to (assistant general manager) Danny (McManus) that he might have to chuck the ball around, or (quarterbacks coach) Buck (Pierce). We’ve got some backup arms in house, if needed.”

While there are no guarantees the Bombers will find stars or even starters through this camp, these kinds of players have become vital to CFL teams in dealing with the salary cap.

“You’re gonna see around the league, I think, with the escalating salaries, that something’s got to go,” Walters said. “Teams are gonna be relying on a lot of these young guys to come in and contribute. We’re no different. We’ve had young guys in the secondary come in and play, linebackers, D-linemen.

“From the American side, you have to be able to rely on your scouting department. With the way we’re operating the salary cap, even with guys getting certain raises on our team, then something’s got to give. You need to rely on some young guys, I call them first-contract players, to come in and contribute.”

The job of finding the best first-contract players available falls to McManus, who is director of U.S. scouting, director of player personnel Ted Goveia and director of college scouting Ryan Rigmaiden.

Now they have a chance to see how the players move in person, how they show the athletic ability that was previously seen on tape. Some of these players haven’t been playing football since they got cut from an NFL camp. They’ve been training and but now it’s about getting back into the mould of playing football. Are they able to do some of the basic things that the coaches ask them to do? Follow directions? Line up where they are supposed to? Do their job?

“This is the slowest it will ever get during the season as far as your instruction,” McManus said. “You’re gonna have some nice one-on-one instruction with the coaches. Once you get into rookie camp, the speed picks up a little bit more. Once main camp starts, things go 100 miles an hour. If you’re not on top of it as a young player right now at this camp, you’ll be lost by the time we get to the middle of May and the veterans come in.”

The scouts have had a challenging year, with the creation and demise of the Alliance of American Football and plans for a re-boot of the XFL adding to an already packed scouting season.

The AAF training camp and season may have actually helped the scouts identify some potential CFL players and Walters expects a few players from the now suspended league to be at mini-camp.

“Ted and Danny and Ryan, they’ve done the legwork on these guys,” Walters said. “Now it’s a chance for them to see them in person. The scouting has been going on for a couple of years with some of these guys and we are finally getting them in. We haven’t seen them play a lot recently, so it will be a good chance for those guys to see them.

“‘Here’s what these players have done in the past and maybe they don’t look 100% in game shape, but you saw glimmers of what we saw. This guy has a huge upside, he’s just out of shape or he’s rusty.’

“It’s an interesting process to not just go with the top five guys. It’s the top five guys that might be lifting the Grey Cup — helping us win the Grey Cup — not just winning the free agent camp.”

BLUE BOMBERS MINI-CAMP ROSTER

At Bradenton, Fla., April 24-25

Player                          Pos      Ht        Wt       Age      College

Malik Boynton           DB       6-0      190     22       Austin Peay

Terrance Baldwin      DB       5-10    180     22       West Liberty

Malik Reaves              DB       6-2      200     23       Villanova

Christian Boutte        DB       5-10    190     23       Nicholls State

Joe Este                      DB       5-11    200     24       Tennessee Martin

Eric Patterson            DB       5-11    195     26       Ball State

Mykkele Thompson  DB       6-1      195     25       Texas

Jimmy Pruitt              DB       6-0      205     26       San Jose State

Amari Coleman          DB       5-11    188     22       Central Michigan

Chinedu Okparaku    LB        6-1      210     22       Fairmont State

Dale Warren               LB        6-0      225     23       Chatanooga

Otha Peters                LB        6-0      235     25       Louisiana-Lafayette

Jarnor Jones              LB        6-3      210     24       Iowa State

Bryan Schor               QB       6-2      215     24       James Madison

Jalen Simmons          RB       5-8      205     27       South Carolina State

Larry Rose                  RB       5-11    195     23        New Mexico State

Marquell Cartwright  RB       5-8      203     NA       North Carolina A&T

Dom Williams             WR      6-2      200     26       Washington State

Garrett Johnson        WR      5-11    175     23        Kentucky

Rasheed Bailey          WR      6-2      200     25       Delaware Valley State

Evan Clark                  WR      5-10    190     23       St. John’s

Tim Wilson                 WR      5-9      170     25       East Stroudsburg

Kenny Walker             WR      5-9      188     25       UCLA

Dennis Parks              WR      6-0      200     24       Rice

*At least 16 more players to be added Wednesday

Twyman@postmedia.com

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5 hours ago, Noeller said:

However, only three of those players — Darvin Adams, Drew Wolitarsky and Nic Demski — were season-long starters.

 

That is not good.

Strange and dumb that alliance of american football players were told they could sign in the NFL, but not the CFL.

Edited by Mark F

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13 minutes ago, Mark F said:

That is not good.

Strange and dumb that alliance of american football players were told they could sign in the NFL, but not the CFL.

Their contracts let them sign with the NFL. 

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1 hour ago, JCon said:

Their contracts let them sign with the NFL. 

I think the executives just said ok you can sign with the NFL. not sure, but anyway,

who gains anything by not letting them look to the CFL?

I defended this league but I was wrong.

cheapskate league, didn't even pay their way home..... complete B.S. .... you guys were right, good players, but a horrible horrible league.

Edited by Mark F

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10 minutes ago, rebusrankin said:

Are you going with having to start 7 NIs? 6? 5?

I think we end up with 3 NI OL, Harris and 3 NI REC

Just really think that Woli and Demski end up as SB and Simonise/Peterman take over at Boundary

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45 minutes ago, Floyd said:

I think we end up with 3 NI OL, Harris and 3 NI REC

Just really think that Woli and Demski end up as SB and Simonise/Peterman take over at Boundary

I could see that but suspect they go Harris, S (Jones), 2 SB (Demski and Woli) and 3 OL to start the year.

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54 minutes ago, rebusrankin said:

I could see that but suspect they go Harris, S (Jones), 2 SB (Demski and Woli) and 3 OL to start the year.

Agreed but I have a feeling that Simonies wows them in camp - gray too

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14 hours ago, Mark F said:

I think the executives just said ok you can sign with the NFL. not sure, but anyway,

who gains anything by not letting them look to the CFL?

I defended this league but I was wrong.

cheapskate league, didn't even pay their way home..... complete B.S. .... you guys were right, good players, but a horrible horrible league.

The contracts are assets. I don't think, once you're in bankruptcy protection, you can simply release people from their contracts if they are considered assets. 

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13 minutes ago, Rich said:

Hard to say without seeing how the contract is written, but once the players are no longer being paid, wouldn't the league be in breach of contract?

Certainly, but that won't nullify the contract. At best, the players can sue to have them nullified but that takes time. 

I suppose there's risk allowing players to attend a camp like this but you would think that the AAF would allow it? Then, if a CFL team was interested, they could negotiate a release with the AAF? 

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4 hours ago, Rich said:

Hard to say without seeing how the contract is written, but once the players are no longer being paid, wouldn't the league be in breach of contract?

It might, but the last thing the players would want is to have the contract nullified.  They're sure to get nothing then.  You want to be able to say that this is a valid contract and I'm owed this money and that they breech is interfering with my ability to make money.  Then the potential for a punitive award gets better.  Of course, it's pretty hard to sue an entity that has zero assets once the creditors are paid, but hey, it's also not too smart to sign a contract with a fledgling league after all the other fledgling leagues have demonstrated that this doesn't work, but hey, roll the dice, take your chances. 

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9 minutes ago, WBBFanWest said:

It might, but the last thing the players would want is to have the contract nullified.  They're sure to get nothing then.  You want to be able to say that this is a valid contract and I'm owed this money and that they breech is interfering with my ability to make money.  Then the potential for a punitive award gets better.  Of course, it's pretty hard to sue an entity that has zero assets once the creditors are paid, but hey, it's also not too smart to sign a contract with a fledgling league after all the other fledgling leagues have demonstrated that this doesn't work, but hey, roll the dice, take your chances. 

Players would be nowhere near the first to get a payout in this process...  I'd also be surprised if there isn't a clause limiting damages to something ridiculous like a percentage of the last week's paycheque

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There's a pile of info here from the Sun. I was going to copy/paste, but Wyman clearly worked to put out this much content, so we owe him some clicks:
 

https://winnipegsun.com/sports/football/cfl/winnipeg-bluebombers/anatomy-of-a-roster-how-danny-mcmanus-and-his-staff-build-up-bombers-american-talent

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4 minutes ago, Noeller said:

There's a pile of info here from the Sun. I was going to copy/paste, but Wyman clearly worked to put out this much content, so we owe him some clicks:
 

https://winnipegsun.com/sports/football/cfl/winnipeg-bluebombers/anatomy-of-a-roster-how-danny-mcmanus-and-his-staff-build-up-bombers-american-talent

Seven QBs...

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44 minutes ago, Noeller said:

I didn't realize how badly I wanted Mike Sellers as a Bombers assistant coach until just now....

No kidding. Im sure he is making great money and living a good life working with IMG though. He would be fantastic as a coach up here though. He could do soo much. Having played MLBer, excelled on teams, running, catching and blocking. 

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