'Complete waste of a season'

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

EDMONTON -- The season that started with such optimism, then unravelled too rapidly, finally ended in despair.

"It's tragic," Winnipeg placekicker Troy Westwood said yesterday. "I just told (punter) Jon Ryan that missing the playoffs is like wasting an entire year of your football career. You work really hard in the off-season and you go through camp and try to put yourself into position during the regular season to give yourself the best shot to get to the Grey Cup, and when you fail to even put yourself into position to play for the Cup, it's really a completely wasted year."

FIRED HEAD COACH

During the past year, the Blue Bombers fired head coach Dave Ritchie, replaced him with Jim Daley, traded quarterback Khari Jones to Calgary and tinkered with their roster continually throughout the season, especially the secondary.

"We came into camp this year thinking that we would contend for first place in the West and we'd been used to a great deal of success over the last three years," Westwood said. "There were still a lot of guys in the locker room that were part of the team that did exceptionally well the last three or four years and for whatever reason, we just failed miserably this year, and that's no one's fault but our own."

And you can bet the overhaul will continue. Club GM Brendan Taman said recently that the whole organization will be monitored at the end of the season but he can start today. One wonders if such older players as Eric Carter, Moe Elewonibi, Robert Gordon, Lamar McGriggs, Wade Miller, Elfrid Payton, Milt Stegall and Terry Ray will even be asked back.

"I'll play again," Payton said. "I'm still doing well, still doing my thing. I haven't been getting a whole lot of sacks this year. I didn't get a whole lot of them in 2000 but I came back and got 15 the next year so, it's no big deal. I played the run real well this year and I'm proud of that. I'm still playing well."

Ryland Wickman, Joe Fleming and Scott Regimbald are among those about to become free agents.

"I like Winnipeg but it's not my decision," Wickman said. "That's up to the front office and I'm sure they're going to re-evaluate how everybody did this season. I love the town and the city and I would love to stay here, if at all possible."

Daley was in no mood to speculate after the match as he was particularly perturbed with both a pair of too-many-men on the field calls and the fact that cornerback Rahim Covington was wearing the wrong cleats in the first half.

"When you have 13 men on the field or you take some of the procedure or offside penalties, I don't think that's symptomatic of rebuilding," he said. "I think that's careless football (read: stupid)."

STATS SPEAK: Winnipeg RB Charles Roberts rushed for 103 yards on 14 carries. It was the first time in 18 games that the Bombers lost when Roberts reached the century mark.


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