Covington offers bribe to O-line

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

Elfrid Payton is five sacks shy of breaking Grover Covington's CFL record of 157.

Covington is willing to fork over some food money to make sure that doesn't happen -- at least not tonight, anyway.

Covington spent his entire 11-year career with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 1981-91. He told the Hamilton Spectator this week that he will take the Tabbies' offensive line out for dinner if they don't let the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end get to Danny McManus tonight at Canad Inns Stadium.

"I've never cheered for so many offensive lineman in my life before," Covington told the Spectator. "... If I wasn't human I would say all the best to him, let him get eight sacks.

"But it is still nice to be No. 1."

Payton is taking Covington's actions as a big-time compliment.

"That's a good sign because that means he feels me breathing down his neck," Payton said. "It's no big deal. I guess if I was the leading guy I'd probably be trying to pay somebody, too."

ON THE LINE: Dave Mudge has been waiting since Game 2 to make amends for what the Winnipeg tackle called his worst game as a CFL pro.

Hamilton's ferocious front four ate up the Blue Bombers offensive line that day, recording five sacks as the Tiger-Cats embarrassed Winnipeg 32-22. Hamilton defensive end Joe Montford, who often lined up across from Mudge, had two of those sacks and was a constant thorn in the quarterback's face. Not only that but Bomber tailback Charles Roberts was held to just 55 yards on 16 carries.

So, Mudge is welcoming the challenge of facing Montford and Co., again tonight.

"Absolutely," he said yesterday. "It's fun to do because they're at the top of the league and they are great players."

WHAT A DIFFERENCE: A year ago, the Ticats crawled into Canad Inns Stadium with a 1-15 record, no owners and few signs of hope.

Today, they're one point better than the Bombers in the East Division crossover race, they have a billionaire owner and optimism abounds.

"We definitely have earned it and deserved it after last year," Hamilton centre Carl Coulter said yesterday. "After a season like we had last year, you honestly wonder if want to keep playing, because it was really that horrible."

TINKERING TICATS: Hamilton has made two roster changes, and one of them takes a huge chunk out of its offence.

SB Archie Amerson, who leads the team with 894 receiving yards, injured his knee last week against Edmonton and won't play. He will be replaced on the roster by WR Dimitrius Breedlove, and Craig Yeast will take over at his starting slotback spot.

The other move is at backup DB, where Rodney Heath takes over for Jemonte Battle.

NEW GUYS: Since the Bombers acquired defensive lineman Joe Fleming, safety Wes Lysack and Scott Regimbald from Calgary to help them make the playoffs, there is some heat on them to do just that.

"I always try to play with the same intensity, enthusiasm and professionalism, no matter where I am and no matter what the playoff situation is," Fleming said. "But I do feel a lot of excitement for the three of us, going from the situation we were in to coming here. So certainly, I expect our games to be elevated because of that."

This will be Fleming's first game back in Winnipeg as a Bomber since 1999.

NO QUIT: McManus, 39, has no plans to call it a career just yet.

"I haven't had a job really for 16 years so why get one now?" he joked.

QUOTABLE: "Belli used to bring back those hockey bags full of meat in college."

-- Bombers FB Scott Regimbald, who roomed with Ticats DT Adriano Belli at the University of Houston. Belli's family is in the meat business.

LATE HIT: As of 9 a.m. yesterday, the Bombers had sold 23,205 tickets for tonight's contest.


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