Bombers get their man

Milt Stegall worked out a contract extension to stay with the Blue Bombers through 2006 on Tuesday....

Milt Stegall worked out a contract extension to stay with the Blue Bombers through 2006 on Tuesday. (Winnipeg Sun/Marcel Cretain)

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

If Milt Stegall is going to finally win that Grey Cup he so desperately desires, he's going to do it in the Blue and Gold of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The CFL club signed its all-time leading receiver to a contract extension yesterday that will keep him with the team until the end of next season, which could very well be his last.

The 35-year-old slotback, who would have become a free agent at the end of this season, is expected to make approximately $180,000 per season.

"It was just a privilege when they asked me if I wanted to do an extension," Stegall said yesterday. "I didn't even think they would bring me back this year because of certain situations, but this has just been a great organization to me.

"They've treated me like a first-class citizen. They've accommodated me greatly, and I'll finish here definitely. And hopefully we finish on a good note."

Stegall is going into his 11th CFL season -- all with the Bombers. He can say he thought the team might not have wanted him back this season, but that could not be further from the truth.

And no one has looked better in training camp than Turtle Man.

"To have Milton, with the camp he's had, agree to stay with us is a great boost," Bombers head coach Jim Daley said. "He's a professional who works as hard as any man I've ever seen.

"If you have a consummate leader and professional, he is No. 1 in that category."

Daley has said that the Bombers are "rebuilding" this season. Stegall was asked if that caused him to consider playing out his contract this year and then leaving as a free agent.

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN

"I don't think any year's a rebuilding year," the future Canadian Football Hall of Famer said. "I don't ever buy into that. I don't know who said that, and I never will buy into that. As long as you got 12 guys on the field, anything can happen.

"They brought in some good guys, and the guys they brought in have CFL experience.

"Everybody's predicting us to come in last, but nobody's out there fighting with us, nobody's in there lifting with us, nobody's in there meeting with us. We know what we can do."

Stegall was the CFL's Most Outstanding Player in 2002 when he snagged 23 touchdown passes, racked up 1,896 receiving yards, had 10 games with 100 or more yards and caught 106 passes.

During last year's tumultuous campaign, Stegall watched those numbers fall to six touchdowns, 1,121 yards, three 100-yard games and 68 receptions.

However, all three of his 100-yard games and four of his touchdown receptions happened when current No. 1 quarterback Kevin Glenn was behind centre.

Daley said Stegall's strong finish was because the offence found cohesion, and the coach sees that bond getting only stronger.

"That type of cohesion allows a good player like Milt Stegall to shine," Daley said.

The big question now is how long Stegall will shine. He and his wife, Darlene, had their first child, Chase, last November, and Stegall talked last season about hanging up his cleats to spend more time with his family.

Darlene, however, doesn't want her husband to retire if his fire still burns.

"We sat down and talked about it," Stegall said. "And she said, 'As long as you're productive, as long as you can go out there and do some things, I want you to play.'

"I don't want to wake up one morning and say 'I wish I would've played one more year.' You don't want to have that burden on you.

"... If I could go out on my own terms, that would be nice. But whatever happens, happens. If I don't get the chance to play another down, I've been truly blessed and fortunate to do the things I've done in my career."


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