No Milt, no worries

PAUL FRIESEN

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

The starting quarterback was limping early in the week, the star receiver is favouring his shoulder and now the saviour of the defence might be missing in action.

There certainly has been nothing dull about the last several days in Blue Bomber camp.

"It's been an interesting week around here," GM Brendan Taman was saying yesterday. "We've had 'knee watch,' 'shoulder watch' and 'baby watch,' all in the same week. I've had enough of watches."

To recap, the knee in question belonged to Kevin Glenn, who appears ready to go in Toronto tomorrow.

The bad shoulder is attached to none other than Milt Stegall, who sounds more optimistic about his availability than his head coach.

And the baby, courtesy of the wife of Juran Bolden, who, we're told, is 50-50 to make it back from Florida to Toronto in time for kickoff.

ALARM BELLS

The funny thing about all this is the injury to Stegall is probably the thing that set off the fewest alarm bells this week.

There was a time -- the last decade, actually -- when the mere possibility Stegall would miss a game would send Bomber nation into a panic.

As recently as last season, you could set your watch to the fact the Bombers were lost without No. 85.

"It was like Charlie (Roberts) rushing for 100," D-lineman Doug Brown said. "When Charlie rushed for 100, we'd win. Milt doesn't play, we'd lose. Those were the two guarantees in Bomber land."

Things feel a little different this time, though.

With a balanced offence and three receivers in the CFL's top five, it's not Milt-or-bust, anymore.

So instead of chewing their fingernails or developing nervous twitches, players are handling the what-if-Stegall-can't-go question by, get this, cracking jokes.

"Now when Milt's not in the lineup anymore, we just get younger. And we get better looking, too," Brown said. "And everyone else gets more attention. Those are the three plusses."

Even Glenn, who used to depend on Stegall the way he counts on oxygen, was laid back about it, feigning surprise that his favourite target might not play.

"Who said Milt wasn't playing?" Glenn asked. "I'll have to figure that out once I find out he's not."

Now, Stegall may, in fact, suit up tomorrow. If it were up to him, you could probably bet on it.

But head coach Doug Berry, who's taking the final say on this one, prefers to have a healthy Stegall down the stretch and into the playoffs. You get the impression Berry will tie Stegall to a chair to keep him out if he's at all concerned about his shoulder.

Think the coach would have felt that way a year ago, when Derick Armstrong, Terrence Edwards and O'Neil Wilson weren't here to pick up the slack, and Arjei Franklin was a raw rookie?

You could drown in the Bombers receiving corps this season, it's that deep.

"In the past it may have been a big deal because we haven't had the surrounding cast," Glenn said. "But now it's a little different. We've upgraded a lot in every position."

It's about time.

Because as we all know, living without No. 85 is something this team will soon have to get used to.

"More than likely after this year, these will be the guys who will be playing," Stegall said. "So this may be a good showcase for these guys to show what's going to happen next year."

Think of it that way, and suddenly tomorrow becomes a potential glimpse into the future. A future this team and its followers have been reluctant -- terrified, maybe? -- to confront.

Maybe it's best to gulp, take a deep breath and confront this, once and for all.

"If he's going to be gone next year," Brown said, "we'd better damn well be able to win a game without him."

An interesting week awaits what could be a fascinating conclusion.


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