And the Cats pounced. Who can blame them?
Well, apparently the Bombers could and did Thursday when head coach Paul LaPolice suggested he would not have done the same had the roles been reversed.
How could they not expect the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to jump at this opportunity and sign the just-released player?
And how in good conscience can Winnipeg now try to condemn the Ticats for making that move.
Whatever the 23-year-old receiver did in order to get released at this late stage in the game, it better have been something a little more egregious than being late for or missing a few meetings as a few stories have suggested.
Because if it wasn’t something much more than that then LaPolice and whoever else decided this was a good idea owe the fans of Winnipeg a huge apology.
He may as well have mailed Marcel Bellefeuille the Winnipeg playbook himself.
For the record Bellefeuille and the Ticats are saying very little about this.
Bellefeuille downplayed the significance of adding a player from the enemy camp at this late point in the season. For the record Bellefeuille says the signing was done with a long-term goal. They have long liked the young receiver and are hoping that going into 2012 he can help their football team. Jeffers-Harris has some NFL aspirations so he’ll most likely pursue those before making a return to the CFL, but for the time being he is Ticats property.
At the very least, the signing keeps him out of the hands of the rival Toronto Argonauts who have to be kicking themselves for not jumping at this opportunity. It’s not like the Argos couldn’t use a physical receiver with top athleticism on their roster.
Jeffers-Harris was in uniform Friday at practice wearing No. 86, but he is not eligible to play this year.
But he can still do a boatload of damage assuming he chooses to share with his new teammates.
Bellefeuille said Friday he had no interest in pumping Jeffers-Harris for information.
The same could not be said of the assembled media, just about every one of which asked to speak with Jeffers-Harris and was told he would not be made available. The same went for media requests for GM Bob O’Billovich.
Bellefeuille was asked if he had already questioned Jeffers-Harris about the Winnipeg game plan for the weekend.
“No, he is strictly here for the future,” Bellefeuille said.
He was then asked if he was aware of whether his coaching staff or players had approached the former Blue Bomber looking to glean some information.
“I am not aware of that and what could a player really tell you to be honest with you,” Bellefeuille said. “We have 18 games of film on them. They have (19) games of film on us. I don’t think there are any major secrets.”
While a similar middle-of-the-playoffs scenario could not be recalled where a player switched teams like this, Bellefeuille pointed out that earlier this year the Ticats released Jerome Dennis who was subsequently picked up by B.C. that very week.
“He had been through our game-planning process and we played them in B.C. and we still won the football game,” Bellefeuille said. “I don’t know what he did or didn’t relate to their coaching staff but it didn’t change the outcome of the football game and this won’t change the outcome of the football game.”
The other side of that argument was plainly evident in Philadelphia this past weekend where the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals upset the Eagles. Former Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb, who was dealt to the Cards at the beginning of the year and had been Arizona’s starter until an injury sidelined him, spent the entire game calling out the Philadelphia plays to his defence from the Arizona bench.
It certainly appeared to help the Cardinals.
Jeffers-Harris won’t be anywhere near the Hamilton bench this weekend as he won’t even travel with the team to Winnipeg, but there is always the chance that should he choose to share some info, it could provide an advantage for the Tiger-Cats.
And for allowing even that remote possibility to happen, the Bombers have to be kicking themselves.