Stokes injury has Bombers scrambling for kick returner

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:02 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are casting the net to find a kick returner in time to play this Saturday. Keith Stokes, who has not only been the most dangerous kick returner in the CFL this season but became an integral part of the offence on Sunday, will miss the match against the Toronto Argonauts due to an ankle sprain. And he may be out longer.

"Keith's ankle is pretty bad," Bombers GM Brendan Taman said yesterday.

"We could use (wide receiver) Derrick Smith, (running back) Charles Roberts or (defensive back) Stephen Fisher but (head coach Jim Daley) wants another option."

Taman was hoping to have another receiver at today's practice, preferably one who can double as a returner.

DROVER DOUBTFUL: Safety Geoff Drover (hamstring) is also "iffy," Taman said. If he cannot go, either backup Joe Morgan, a non-import, or an import defensive back, would start at safety -- depending on the status of Canadian cornerback Markus Howell, who missed the last game with a broken bone in his hand.

"It's a hand injury, not a hamstring or a knee, something that would keep him from running," Daley said.

"He just had to get through the pain part of it, let the bone heal a little bit and get used to the cast so that (his return) is a possibility. But we'll have to see how he functions (today)."

MONEY MATTERS: Until Sunday's inaugural Banjo Bowl, Bombers attendance had been down and the cost of injuries up.

"Yeah, it's costs us money," Taman said. "We budgeted for them but when you have nine guys injured, it's not good, especially when one is a $300,000-plus quarterback (Khari Jones). I'm concerned, yeah. My accountant (Jim Bell) has been giving me not-nice looks. But we still have to field a competitive team."

And any time a player like Stokes goes down, Taman must find a replacement.

RITCHIE UPDATE: Former Bomber head coach Dave Ritchie is recovering well from recent quadruple bypass surgery and may be released from hospital this week, related defensive co-ordinator Mike Gorton.


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