Chip on shoulder growing

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

One odds-maker had the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at 48-1 to win the Grey Cup on the eve of the 2005 CFL season.

Another set the odds at 30-1, the longest shot on its tote board. And most fearless prognosticators either have or will pick them to finish dead last.

So, these Davids are loading up their slingshots as they prepare for battle against all those Goliaths out there.

"The more that's said, the bigger the chip that we get to put on our shoulder," suggested veteran defensive lineman Doug Brown. "You walk around with a big enough chip and you got something to prove, that's how things get done in the CFL.

"Now, we don't need to manufacture it whereas before, when we were favourites, it was kind of hollow when it was like Us against Them. Well, guess what? Now, it's everyone else pointing the fingers and putting us down the basement."

The Bombers finished fourth in the CFL West last season at 7-11 and their personnel continued to whip through revolving doors throughout training camp.

"It's going to be in the back of my head that, every time we go out there, nobody thinks we can do anything," said Brown, the club's top defensive player last year. "Sometimes, when you have a lot to prove, that's when you really show up.

BIG SURPRISE

"If anything, the first team that takes us for granted is going to be in for an awfully big surprise."

But with 11 changes to the starting 24, it will take time for the team to develop chemistry.

"I hope people pick us to be dead last all the way up until the playoffs," said defensive lineman Joe Fleming. "The important thing is to get into the playoffs and I'm not too worried about what anybody thinks about how we're going to be.

"People can predict whatever they want, whether it's 40-1 or 30-1 to win the Grey Cup. That's fine. It does give you more reason. Is there a chip on your shoulder? I wouldn't necessarily say it's a chip but I just don't care what a handicapper or anyone else thinks that doesn't know the people in this locker room."

The former Stampeder recalled how Calgary was expected to fall off its horse in 2001.

"When we won the Grey Cup -- and it's hard to refer to this here in Winnipeg -- in 2001, we were picked to not even come close to Winnipeg," Fleming recalled. "There is a lot of guys here from that Calgary team and there are a lot of guys who remember the pain of losing in 2001 still on the Winnipeg team, which is good.

"At the end of the day, it comes down to what the guys in this locker room believe in and that's what we need to work on as a group."

But that underdog status can be a motivator.

"We have the unique opportunity to go out and prove everybody wrong and it starts for real this week (versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders)," said centre Matt Sheridan. "We have to come together and believe in ourselves, and know that we can go out there and conquer whatever's put before us."

The Bombers were also encouraged by the 1988 season when doomsayers predicted disaster for a club after it had lost so many starters. Winnipeg won the Cup.

"Just goes to show you that sometimes predictions are nothing but a bunch of hooey," Sheridan said.


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