Optimism prevails for Blue

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:06 AM ET

The 2006 CFL season kicks off tomorrow and optimism prevails in all eight camps across the country, even if there is one less club contending for the Grey Cup.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers head into the campaign guided by new head coach Doug Berry and 12 new starters on a squad that finished last year with a lowly 5-13 mark.

"It (the team) has a lot of potential," said veteran Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown.

"It has a lot of ability, a lot of talent on the roster. It's just that I've seen teams with that ability fulfil that potential and I've seen them go the other way as well. So, it's going to be real interesting.

"We still have to go out and get it done. Optimism isn't going to win us any games. It's guys actually understanding in this room how hard it's going to be in order for us, regardless of how much talent we have, to turn everything around and be as successful as we want to be this year. Everybody else is optimistic as well and there can only be so many winners in an eight-team league so, we'll see what happens."

Trial by fire

But Brown does like the way the new personnel is fitting into both the defensive and offensive schemes.

"(But) there's no other way to make a prediction other than live, trial by fire, which we start with (tomorrow against the Alouettes in Montreal)," Brown said.

"We're going to be in the hunt for the playoffs this year," vowed quarterback Kevin Glenn, who starts only his second season as the No. 1 gun.

"It will be everybody, not just one guy on the team that's going to do it. It's going to take great play from everybody, including me. So, we're going out to execute; we're going to stop people on defence and put points up to help our defence out."

And Glenn loves the way the new offensive scheme spreads the ball around, keeping opposing defenders on their toes.

"This defence, unfortunately, we had the season we did last year and that's over with," said Glenn. "These guys who are coming back who were here last year, have a chip on their shoulder. You want to go out and prove people wrong and that's enough motivation right there."

Middle linebacker Barrin Simpson, defensive tackle Ron Warner and defensive backs Anthony Malbrough and Kelly Malveaux are just some of the new guys expected to inject new life into that flatliner defence this season.

"I wish we had more experience playing next to each other but I think the players we have are good enough," Berry opined. "I believe we can beat everybody in this league, I really do. It remains to be seen but I feel that we are very capable of it. Even last year, Winnipeg beat Montreal, took Edmonton to 14-12. It's not like they (Bombers) were that far away and now I think that our defence is playing better and the offence is starting to come together. So, I feel like we've got a chance."

Receiver/kick returner Albert Johnson III, receivers Andrae Thurman and Quentin McCord, and offensive linemen Obby Khan and Val St. Germain are the new kids on the offensive block.

"Very talented'

"Right now, we're a very talented team, it's just a matter of getting team chemistry down right now," Simpson suggested. "The quicker we get team chemistry down, the better. We've really got a new group, except for the core guys who were here already, so it may take a little time to get that chemistry down to where we're in playoff form. But we're going to get there. I definitely feel like we can get into the playoffs."

First comes optimism, now comes reality.


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