Holding their ground

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

Raise your hand if you've seen this picture before: player doesn't show up for training camp, usually to force the team to fork over some more cash. Eventually, the two sides kiss and make up, and the episode is forgotten.

The training camp holdout, like two-a-days and Gatorade showers, has pretty much become a football staple, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers haven't been immune to it over the years.

Receiver Milt Stegall and defensive back Juran Bolden pulled the stunt briefly in 2001, for instance. Both returned to become rather significant contributors to the Bombers' Grey Cup run that year.

Well, listen up, folks, 'cause there's a new sheriff in town, and he ain't got time for any belly-achin' about contracts when there's work to be done.

Head coach Jim Daley is laying down the law for defensive back Ricky Bell and offensive lineman Orlando Bobo, this year's camp outlaws.

UNFORGIVABLE

His message on Day 4 of this western standoff: you've already committed a crime that, in these here parts, may just be unforgivable.

"If you want to use this year to put a pistol to this organization's head to force a new contract ... I'm not impressed with the 75 guys here being held hostage," Daley said yesterday. "To take teammates and use them as leverage, it doesn't really work. It's very hard to recover the working relationship."

Now, Daley doesn't readily toss around terms like "pistol" and "hostage," so you know how strongly he feels about this.

It's not like he's letting a couple of spare parts ride off into the sunset, either.

Bell and Bobo were projected starters in the two areas -- defensive secondary and O-line -- where this team has been dreadfully slow on the draw the last couple of years.

Opposing quarterbacks have regularly shot the Winnipeg pass defence full of holes, while Bomber passers have all too often been sitting ducks.

STANDOFF

Seeing the opportunity, Bell and Bobo, both under contract for this season, planned an 11th-hour standoff in an attempt to land extensions, complete with raises and signing bonuses, no doubt.

The only twist -- they both filed retirement papers, so they're not actually suspended.

"To me it's the same crap, different pile," GM Brendan Taman said. "I offered both of them an extension in May. To me, that's not kosher."

Not even with the offensive line in tatters, once again?

In case you missed it, import Pete Campion has hurt his knee and is done, while local boy Matt Sheridan (head) has missed the last two days. Oh, and promising Canuck Todd Krenbrink retired the other day.

It sounds, though, as if Taman is reading from the same book as Daley on this one: no show, no go.

And certainly, no dough.

Even if the two holdouts put their pistols down and have a change of heart.

"Quite frankly, it's a dangerous precedent to set to just welcome them back with open arms," Taman said. "If they think they can just come back and, hunky-dory, life goes on, that won't happen."

Most players negotiate contract extensions while continuing to play, as Daley pointed out.

"That's professional," Daley said. "That's how it should be done. We are rebuilding ... we have a massive job, and in that particular situation I think holdouts are even more damaging because people you count on, and notify you a day and a half before camp that they weren't coming, really puts you in a bad situation.

"Can you build a winning football team with people doing that? I doubt if they will be here this year if they can't negotiate a contract (extension)."

To hear Taman tell it, that isn't likely to happen.

If that's the case, then Bell and Bobo aren't carrying loaded pistols.

Which means this hostage-taking is officially over.


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