Learning curve

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

It was like comparing a well-trained army to a just-formed posse still learning on the trail.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers open the 2005 CFL season by playing the Roughriders in Saskatchewan on Saturday.

"Because they're a veteran team, they were able to take people and put them in the exact spots they're going to play and practise that way all of camp," Bomber head coach Jim Daley said enviously yesterday. "So, that puts them way ahead of a team that's still trying to identify talent (like Winnipeg). That's just the way it is. They know their personnel as coaches and the players know their system. So, that's a real advantage to them."

The Bombers, meanwhile, have added 15 new players to their 40-man roster.

"So, there's always a little more transition time in terms of working together," Daley said. "So, we as coaches, have to adapt to our personnel and use our personnel in the way they are good and comfortable.

"Saskatchewan looks like a very good football team which has had the opportunity to have great continuity. That's not intimidating or threatening, that's just a challenge. That's fun."

On the other hand, the 'Riders will have no idea what the revamped Bombers are planning.

D-DAY: Daley will decide today who will start at middle linebacker and at offensive tackle, among other positions, today. If yesterday's practice was any indication, Ryland Wickman would get the nod over Willie Fells at MLB while Dave Mudge and Jermese Jones would be the tackles in Regina.

"Obviously, we're always concerned when a guy (Wickman) is coming off an injury," Daley said. "But he's such a smart player. He showed so much understanding of the concepts of the defence and has been a very productive player so, we have to give him serious thought to play."

Although newcomer John Feugill has been pushing both Mudge and Jones, he is still learning the language of the Bomber play calls. But Daley was asked if the coaches were concerned about Mudge, a veteran Canadian.

"If we look at the last game as an indicator, we have a concern," he replied. "For many of our players, we have a little bit of a concern -- no moreso for Dave Mudge than for several. I don't want to say that Dave Mudge is a special concern for us.

"John wasn't brought in because of a concern about a player, he was brought in because he's a good player."

HASHMARKS: SB Vinny Sutherland (hamstring) was getting more work at yesterday's practice and remains an option as a designated import ... Although both DEs Antwone Young and Gavin Walls remain on the official roster, expect one of them to stay home ... Although QB Tee Martin throws right, he is actually left-handed. His dad taught him to throw with his right. QB Russ Michna, who throws left, is actually right-handed.


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