A team in transition

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

The first year of its existence in what was to become the CFL back in 1930, Winnipeg did not win a single game officially.

Some fear that the Blue Bombers will celebrate their 75th anniversary by posting similar results and finish out of the playoff picture again this season. After all, they finished fourth in the West with a 7-11 record last season and the fifth-place team, the Calgary Stampeders, is now flush with new ownership money which has been spent lavishly to lure the likes of quarterback Henry Burris, wide receiver Jeremaine Copeland and others to Cowtown.

The second-place Edmonton Eskimos (9-9) welcomed quarterback Ricky Ray back from the NFL and spent big bucks to get others. The first-place B.C. Lions (13-5) still boast the best one-two QB punch in Dave Dickenson and Casey Printers.

Meanwhile, the Bombers have been a team in transition ever since Jim Daley replaced Dave Ritchie at head coach during last season. Not only has the coaching staff been almost completely revamped, the Bombers will likely change about one-third of the 24 players that started in that last game.

"We were just a couple of wins away from making it to the playoffs last year," Bomber GM Brendan Taman said during yesterday's state-of-the-franchise teleconference call. "The West will be very competitive but, with the changes we've made, so will we.

"Obviously, we weren't prepared to stand pat with what we had and we'll be right in there fighting with the rest."

Gone from last year's starting squad include: linebacker Mo Kelly (retired), defensive end Elfrid Payton (released), centre Moe Elewonibi (B.C.) and cornerback Eric Carter (released). And, of course, Kevin Glenn became the full-fledged starting quarterback after Khari Jones was traded to Calgary.

Giving the club reason for optimism are the additions of such free agents as wide receiver Wane McGarity (Calgary), offensive lineman Mike Abou-Mechrek (Ottawa), linebackers Sean Woodson (Hamilton) and Willie Fells (Calgary), defensive back William Fields (Calgary) and the acquisition of quarterback Spergon Wynn from B.C.

But they will all have to adjust to a new coaching staff.

"Sometimes, it takes a year of working together (to mesh)," said Daley, whose first priorities are at quarterback and offensive line. "It's very, very important in our case that we have a starting point and a clear picture of who our quarterback is, and it's Kevin Glenn.

"Other than the quarterback, our No. 1 priority is the O-line. It sets the tone."

Bombers will bring in as many as 13 O-linemen and could start two imports there this season. The club is still re-working its pathetic secondary but believes it will have the right defensive end to replace Payton.

Meanwhile, the club expects to sell 18,500 season tickets and corporate sponsorship is on "a record pace," said club president/CEO Lyle Bauer. The preliminary report for a feasibility study on erecting a covered stadium is expected in late June.


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