He is one of those types of players you miss the most when he is not there, even if he is deemed a backup. And the Winnipeg Blue Bombers do appreciate the value of defensive lineman Jon Oosterhuis. The CFL club finally announced the signing of the non-import, among four others, yesterday.
The Bombers also confirmed the signing of former B.C. Lion linebacker Ron Ockimey and the return of linebacker Tony Ortiz, as well as two intriguing prospects -- former Calgary Stampeder defensive back Marcus Bradley and defensive end Jason Clark.
"It's a relief," said Oosterhuis, a free agent who did not really want to leave. "I've enjoyed my time in Winnipeg and looking elsewhere wasn't really a factor for me."
But the 6-foot-4, 266-pound New Hampshire product may have had a better chance to start elsewhere.
"I'm playing behind Doug Brown and Joe Fleming -- two of the best interior linemen in the league," the former first-round draft pick said between selling cars at McNaught. "But I would like to be in there for every snap. I've talked to (head) coach (Jim) Daley and we're going to work on getting me in there for more snaps to give the guys more of a breather."
Inking the 27-year-old was a relief for Bomber GM Brendan Taman, too.
"I'm glad to get that finished," he said. "We were hoping all along to keep him. He's sort of an under-appreciated, behind-the-scenes kind of guy who does all the little things and is a good, quality non-import to have."
LBs GALORE: With the additions of Ockimey and Ortiz, the Bombers will have at least eight import linebackers in camp, all with at least some CFL experience. Ortiz, you may recall, impressed the club during last year's training camp. But the 6-foot, 235-pound ex-NFLer had to return home to be with his pregnant wife and he was not the same player when he came back.
"There was interest in him around the league and we felt he warranted another look," Taman said.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Ockimey had two solid seasons with B.C. before losing his job to the more experienced Otis Floyd last year.
"He's a pretty good player who can run," Taman said.
"We have sort of solidified (linebacker) pretty strongly now."
ANOTHER STAMP: Bradley, 28, had suffered a season-ending broken leg with Calgary in 2000 but has played the past two years in the Arena2 Football League.
"He had a pretty good rapport with (Daley) in Calgary," Taman said. "It was a pretty significant injury but Jim worked him out in Carolina and he seemed OK. He's a really good cover guy who can play inside."
The 6-foot, 200-pounder also spent time with the San Diego Chargers in 1999.
ANOTHER CANADA? Taman compared Clark to Tom Canada, the rush end named the club's top rookie after sitting out a season.
"He has also been out a year and is a solid rush guy," he said.
At 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, the Mississippi State grad was considered too small for an NFL D-lineman and too big for a linebacker.