The elusive Mr. Roberts

Charles Roberts said the new Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence is simple enough that even he can pick...

Charles Roberts said the new Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence is simple enough that even he can pick it up after arriving late at the team's training camp. (Winnipeg Sun/Jon Schledewitz)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

He may be the most talented player in the Canadian Football League, certainly one of the most difficult to track down in the open field.

The same has always been true for the man himself: the moment you think you've got Charles Roberts figured out, he performs one of those patented spineramas and leaves you with two armfuls of air.

Take yesterday, for instance, his first at Blue Bomber training camp.

Sporting a new wedding ring, worn dutifully under his practice gloves, Roberts did everything he could to avoid interviews.

First, he tried to duck under the west-side grandstand and through the visitors locker-room. When he ran into a dead-end, he tried the old tell-em-you've-got-to-go-to-the-bathroom trick.

I'm no Maxwell Smart, but that's the second time Roberts has tried that on me.

Sure enough, ten minutes later No. 1 was either on the world's longest pee break or hiding in a stall.

Finally, a couple of Bomber staffers made the decision: "We're goin' in."

It took both to convince the Reluctant One we weren't a bunch of devil-worshippers looking for a human sacrifice -- we just wanted to ask a few questions.

Like whether or not he still wanted to be traded.

"No. I don't."

And what changed his mind from a couple of weeks ago?

"Me," Roberts said. "I changed my mind. I like being out there. I like playing. I like the stadium. I like the people on this team. There are a lot of different things that changed my mind."

Well, then, did he regret his previous comments, when he told the Sun that if the Bombers were going to sign former NFL back Onterrio Smith, he wanted out?

"No, I don't," Roberts said. "It's a free world. I can say what I feel when I'm feeling it. It may not be the same feeling now. But when I was feeling it, I said it."

You may recall Roberts was also feeling less than impressed with Bomber GM Brendan Taman at the time, accusing him of not caring about his players.

And now?

"Me and Brendan are cool. Brendan was Brendan and I'm me."

Glad we got that straightened out.

Then there was the little matter of questioning new head coach Doug Berry's offence.

In "the outburst," Roberts said it didn't look like he'd be getting the ball as much as he'd become used to.

So how was his first look at the new system?

"Obviously, I'm a couple of days behind and I'm trying to pick up the offence as I go," Roberts said. "But it's pretty simple. Simple enough for me to even pick up."

We're glad he said that.

At one point, Roberts began to sound almost conciliatory, suggesting there might be room for both he and Smith in the offence.

But just when you thought he'd buried the hatchet, he starts fingering the edge of the thing again.

"I know what you're all lookin' for, and, ordinarily, I probably would give it to you," Roberts said. "But I'm trying to have a good day with my first practice. I can't give it to you today."

So his concerns, whatever made him uptight, haven't been addressed?

"Not really. I'm an uptight guy. I'm always trying to psych myself out. That's what I do to make myself be a better player."

OK, now I'm the one needing a bathroom break.

Since when does sportswriting require a Ph.D. in psychology?

Every time you think Roberts has matured, he does something that reminds you of the rookie who walked out on the team because he felt under-appreciated. Or the guy who's been late for all those flights and team meetings.

The coach simply shrugs his shoulders about the whole thing.

"My feelings about (players) are going to be based on my experiences with them," Berry said. "This is my first experience with Charles and I've had no problems."

It's only been a day, coach. It's only been a day.


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