Pens are at the ready

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

They represent 40% of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' starting secondary.

They are a big reason why the Bomber defence turned its sorry self around in 2006.

And they are six days from becoming CFL free agents.

Halfback Anthony Malbrough and cornerback Stanford Samuels will both become eligible to test the CFL market next Thursday night if they don't reach new deals with the Bombers.

Both players, however, would prefer to return to Winnipeg and sound confident that will happen.

"Hopefully I can get something wrapped up in the next couple of days or so before free agency even comes, so I don't have to worry about it," Malbrough said yesterday. "That would be fine with me."

Samuels is of the same mindset.

"We're real, real, super close," he said. "I don't know. We'll see how things play out.

"I want to be in Winnipeg, period. But I want my value. ... If that deal does come up, hey, my pen hand is ready."

Bombers GM Brendan Taman, however, isn't as convinced about the ongoing negotiations.

"As positive as they sound, I take a little more of a conservative approach to those discussions," Taman said, "because I know how things can change in this business."

Malbrough, a five-year CFL veteran, led the Bombers last season with three fumble recoveries and tied for the team lead with six pass knockdowns. He added a sack and finished the season with 40 tackles.

His worst outing of the season came in the playoffs, when he was fully or partly responsible for three Toronto Argonaut touchdowns in Winnipeg's East Division semifinal loss.

Samuels, with two CFL seasons under his belt, was second on the team with three interceptions, and he tied for third with five pass knockdowns. He had a tackle for a loss and a blocked punt.

"I want to build on what we got there," Samuels said.

"I want to see who the defensive backs coach is going to be as well."

Kicker Troy Westwood told the Sun yesterday that he wants to return to the Bombers for a 17th season and is expecting an offer from Taman to arrive at his southern Ontario home any day now.

STEELTOWN-BOUND: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats added two former Bomber coaches to their staff yesterday.

Rod Rust, Winnipeg's defensive co-ordinator for half of the 2005 season, assumed the same role for the Ticats yesterday, while Mike Working, the Bombers' quarterbacks coach last season, was officially named Hamilton's offensive co-ordinator.


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