Boy, has this Willie fellow come back with a vengeance.
Middle linebacker Willie Fells returned from taking an entire season off and shone on defence for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when they tied the Eskimos 20-20 in a pre-season match in Edmonton on Friday.
Fells, who was cut by Calgary during training camp last year, recorded three defensive tackles, a tackle for a loss, two special teams tackles, one forced fumble and returned a recovered fumble.
"It felt good to be back and I was just trying to take advantage of every play that I was out there," said the 6-foot-1, 230-pound import. "Fortunately, a few came my way. It felt good to get that first hit in there and get those cobwebs out of the way. After that, it was back to the way it used to be."
And head coach Jim Daley was impressed.
"It looked like Willie Fells flew around and made a lot of plays," he said. "(He) got the opportunity to play a lot more because Ryland Wickman is nursing a sore groin, so we limited his snaps. Willie made full use of his game opportunity. He had a very, very good night. He showed up a lot and that's to his credit."
But Fells, 28, lamented his blown play at the end of the match.
"At the end of the game, that was my play to make, so that's going to be hanging over my head," he said of the pass completion over the middle that set up Edmonton's game-tying field goal on the last play of the game. "So, we got a tie instead of a victory in here."
WARRIORS: Daley also singled out safety Shawn Gallant and Canadian rookie defensive lineman Martin Lapostolle, among others.
"Shawn Gallant is a feisty guy," he said. "This was our first collision-type game and that brought out the warrior in a lot of people. And Shawn competed with an intensity that you don't see in practice.
"(Lapostolle's) rugged, tough. He's a Big 10 nose tackle and that's how he plays. He's pushing for a roster spot and certainly deserves a long look."
But he was not happy with either the team's tackling or its special teams.
"Overall, our special teams and defensive tackling wasn't good enough in terms of where we need to be," Daley said. "Even on the that last drive of the fourth quarter, if we had done a little better job of tackling, we win the game."
CUTS COMING: Bombers must trim their roster by 17 players by tomorrow at 11 p.m. and the players who did not go to Edmonton may not be spared -- especially if they are unable to play against the Eskimos here on Thursday. Those include LBs Tony Ortiz and Ron Ockimey, SB Vinnie Sutherland, RB Marvin Townes and QB Tee Martin.
"It's a very disheartening process to have to go through this as a coach, to have to tell a man he doesn't have employment," Daley said. "It's miserable in any year. We have to make those decisions but it's not a good day."
The Bombers will also be keeping a close eye on the waiver wire.
The players are back on the field this morning for their final round of two-a-days.