A fine juggling act

Quarterback Russ Michna throws during training camp earlier this spring. The Blue Bombers have...

Quarterback Russ Michna throws during training camp earlier this spring. The Blue Bombers have placed Michna on the 'inactive list' where he waits for a spot on the team's roster. (Winnipeg Sun File/Jason Halstead)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

So, let's see if we've got this straight.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have addressed their quarterback conundrum by making no decision at all, keeping all four.

They've dealt with the glut at linebacker by retaining a six-pack of imports, although how many are actually healthy enough to play is debatable.

And a few promising newcomers, like receiver Vinny Sutherland and O-lineman Ryan Bachman, are still practising, even though they were cut on the weekend.

Welcome to the CFL's annual roster juggle, a fascinating game of hide 'n seek where a player can be cut one day, named a Week 1 starter the next.

"It's unbelievable the juggling that you do," Bomber head coach Jim Daley was saying yesterday, his head still spinning from watching the carousel that moves bodies to and from the active roster, the practice roster, the injured, suspended and retired lists.

"Some of them, I don't know what list they're on," Daley said.

Heck, some players have no idea what list they're on.

The Bombers were interested in an offensive lineman released by another team on the weekend, so GM Brendan Taman gave him a call.

"I happened to get in touch with the fellow through his mom," Taman began. "I gave the kid half a nervous breakdown, because he didn't know what I was talking about."

Turns out the player's release was only a paper move -- he'd signed another contract the next day -- allowing his team space to keep another player for a day.

It's called hiding your assets.

"That's the type of thing we do in our league," Daley said. "A day is big."

And if you don't have a proper list for a guy, you invent one.

Like the "inactive list," a non-existent place where the Bombers are stashing linebacker Ryland Wickman and quarterback Russ Michna.

Get a load of this exchange between The Sun and Daley yesterday, regarding Michna's status.

Reporter: What list is Russ Michna on?

Daley, after a few seconds of thought: "Don't know. Inactive."

Reporter: Is the inactive list the same as the injured list?

Daley: "No. Don't ask me what is it. We're using it."

Technically, Michna and Wickman were actually on the suspended list.

"Russ had some business he had to attend to on cut-down day," is how Taman explained Michna's so-called punishment. "So we had to move him to suspended."

And Wickman, that well-known rabble-rouser, apparently "missed" a practice, or a meeting -- or maybe a hair appointment -- and had to be dealt with, accordingly.

Every team does this type of thing, but it can be a risky game, and calls for the guile of an experienced juggler.

PAY A STEEP PRICE

Leave the wrong player exposed on the wrong list for too long, and you can pay a steep price. That's how Edmonton lost kick returner Ezra Landry to Montreal last year, and how Calgary let D-lineman Jon Oosterhuis slip away to Winnipeg in '02.

Compounding matters during training camp is the fact there's no official injured list.

Taman says the league is reviewing that issue.

For now, though, teams will do whatever they can to protect their talent.

For the Bombers, it means continuing to juggle four quarterbacks going into the season, almost unheard of in the CFL.

For that they can thank Michna, who was unheard of, until about two weeks ago.

"We knew about his skills," Daley said. "What we didn't know was how rapid a transition he would make. It's unbelievable.

"It's a rare year. We will do what we can to keep all four."

Reporter: So whatever happened to D-lineman Paul Lapostolle? He was cut, but is he staying?

Daley: "He's here today, so I think he is. But I don't know what list he's on."

Got it.


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