Tangled up in Blue

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

They say that sometimes a team has to lose before it can win in the playoffs.

If that's the case, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers should have no problems ending their 16-year Grey Cup drought this month.

The 42 Bombers who are expected to strap on the pads tomorrow in the East Division semifinal against the Montreal Alouettes have a combined playoff record of 37-80.

There are 27 Bombers, including 12 who will be making their post-season debuts, who have never won a playoff game.

LITTLE TO SHOW

Winnipeg has four players on its roster who own a Grey Cup ring, but only two -- defensive back Kelly Malveaux and kick returner Keith Stokes -- are expected to play tomorrow.

The others are linebacker Marcus Winn and defensive tackle Jabari Issa, who won a championship in 2005 with the Edmonton Eskimos.

There are several Bomber veterans who have plenty of playoff experience but few wins to show for it.

Slotback Milt Stegall, for instance, has won only two of eight post-season games. Linebacker Barrin Simpson is 1-for-7.

Malveaux, who has won five of his eight playoff contests, said it's not a problem that the Bombers have only four Grey Cup winners on its roster.

"I don't think so, because you've had guys, like a Milt Stegall, who have been there and tasted it and let it slip through their fingers," Malveaux said. "It'd be (good) for a guy like that to step up and say, 'Hey, I've been there, tasted it, smelled it but didn't come away with it.' It'd be somebody like that who would really have a true story to tell.

"For myself, I've tasted it. I know what's required of a team to get there. It's just playing week by week and just making those sacrifices that will attribute to the team's overall success."

It's important for players to limit the distractions during playoff season, Malveaux said, and it's up to him and the rest of the veterans to educate the rookies.

"We have a responsibility to give them a little foresight of what it is and how important it is to be mentally prepared, physically prepared, and just start sacrificing all those things," Malveaux said, "whether it's added nightlife, whether it's media obligations, whether it's signing a few more autographs here and there.

"Whatever you have to do to get your body and mind right, you need to do it."

There will be nine Bombers tomorrow who made their playoff debuts in last year's East semifinal loss to the Toronto Argonauts. Head coach Doug Berry said that one game, even though it was a setback, might make a world of difference.

"It's good for us to have been there last year," Berry said. "Now we have more guys (with experience). I can remember talking to some guys last year who had never been to the playoffs. I was like, 'Whoa!'

"This year we've got a lot more guys that have been there, at least all the guys that were on the team last year. We've added a couple more guys who have been in the Grey Cup before, so we're a little more seasoned going in.

"Of course Montreal was a Grey Cup participant last year, so they've got it as well. We haven't quite got to the second level yet, but we're going to try to get there this year."


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