Bombers' Canuck attack

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Arjei Franklin arrived in Winnipeg last May as a wide-eyed rookie out of the University of Windsor.

The Bombers' third-round draft pick last April couldn't wait to meet the legend, Milt Stegall, and when he got on the field he couldn't believe how fast the defensive backs were in the CFL.

Franklin, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound wide receiver, got over that awe and made the team, registering 16 catches for 161 yards in a backup role. He was subsequently named Winnipeg's rookie of the year.

A year later, three days into his second training camp, Franklin appears ready to burst on to the scene, running crisp routes, making a boatload of catches and earning the praise of the head coach.

"I feel so much better this year," the smiling 25-year-old said yesterday. "I feel faster. Things are good. I'm happy to be here, and I feel like I can contribute this year."

Head coach Doug Berry has certainly noticed a change in Franklin.

"Arjei's more confident, and his speed is showing up more," Berry said. "That's probably because of his confidence."

Franklin's timing couldn't be better. Berry revealed yesterday that the chances the Bombers will go with two starting Canadian receivers this season are "pretty good."

Then again, maybe Berry feels that way because of Franklin.

"I'm really pleased with the way our Canadians are playing," Berry said. "And with (Jamie) Stoddard and Arjei Franklin, Blair Atkinson and O'Neil Wilson ... of those four we probably could play with two starters."

Those four are the only healthy Canuck receivers left, as Jeff Keegan is out indefinitely with a knee injury and Winnipeg product Adam Eckert is gone for at least a month after (stop reading if you're eating) dislocating his left index finger through the skin on Monday.

Franklin got a head start on his sophomore season by hooking up regularly with starting quarterback Kevin Glenn, who lives across the river from Windsor in Detroit during the off-season.

"Me getting the chance to run routes with Kevin gave me a lot more confidence and maybe gave Kevin more confidence in me as well," Franklin said. "So he can look to me as his third read after the rest of the guys, but still. That's been a good thing for both of us."

Franklin did a double take when the Bombers acquired Wilson from the Montreal Alouettes on May 25, but he hasn't let it get to him.

"It's a competitive camp. It's football," Franklin said. "It's supposed to be competitive. It caught me off guard, but O'Neil's a great guy and he's a great player. I've seen it right away, so we gotta compete. That's how it is.

"... I can't blame (the Bombers). If I was in that situation I'd do the same thing. So now he's here, I'm here, Stoddard's here, Eckert, Blair and Keegan.

"We're all here, and may the best man win."

Or two men, if the Bombers ultimately decide to go down that road. Franklin could be attractive thanks to his entry-level salary and his evolution, which isn't restricted only to the football field. He will marry his fiancee, Afia Fordjour, this December.

"We're looking to get a house and all that kind of stuff, so it's some big steps," Franklin said. "I'm growing up."


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