Time to strut stuff

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

Winnipeg's first first-round draft pick since 2000 will get his first taste of CFL action when the Blue Bombers take on the Tiger-Cats in their first pre-season game in Hamilton tonight (CJOB, 6 p.m.).

"I'm pretty excited," Brendon LaBatte said before the Bombers left Winnipeg yesterday. "I'm looking forward to it. I've got a few butterflies going into it. I'm not 100% sure what to expect but I feel pretty confident, I think, going in. So, we'll see how it all goes (tonight)."

The 6-foot-4, 320-pound guard was taken sixth overall in the 2008 draft and Bomber head coach Doug Berry promised that the University of Regina product will get plenty of action tonight.

"Brendon LaBatte will certainly get enough playing time, as they all will," said Berry, who took mostly first-year players among the 50 that flew into Toronto yesterday.

"I have to show that I know my plays and go out there and be physical, you know, push people around and do my best," said LaBatte, who denied feeling any extra heat as a top pick.

"I don't know what the expectations of people are but I didn't really feel any added pressure throughout camp. But (tonight), I'll make sure I have a real good game."

After an admittedly slow start in camp, LaBatte has adjusted to the tempo at the pro level.

"Things happen so much faster but I've gotten adjusted," said LaBatte, 21. "I'm sure there's another speed come game time, as compared to practice. It probably goes up another notch."

LaBatte is not the only draftee who will have to adjust to the quickened pace. Both running back Daryl Stephenson (third round) and defensive back Marc Beswick (fourth) can be forgiven if they make a mistake or two in the early going.

"I'm not too nervous," said Stephenson, 22. "The pre-game jitters are obviously going to be there but I'm not too worried. I'm just going to go out there and do what I can do."

Although he is more at home at tailback, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound University of Windsor product will get a long look at fullback.

"I've got to show them that I can play on special teams, for one, that I can be versatile and block out of the backfield and catch and things like that," he said. "I think I can show them what I can do with the ball if I get some chances that way as well."

Beswick, whose citizenship could solve a ratio problem, is champing at the bit.

"I'm pretty excited about it," said the 6-foot-1, 198-pound St. Mary's product. "I can't wait to go out there and see how we do, and how I do.

"I'm not nervous, I'm more anxious than anything, to be honest with you. I'm just going to go out there and give it my best ... I just have to go out there, be consistent and pretty much work hard on every play and make plays. That's what they're expecting and execution is the biggest thing."

Draftees also heading to Steeltown are wide receiver Aaron Hargreaves (second round), who just returned from injury, linebacker Pierre-Luc Labba (sixth) and Winnipeg's Don Oramasionwu (fifth), a defensive lineman.

"Everybody will get at least two quarters of playing time and some guys as much as three," Berry said of the non-quarterbacks.

"The footwork drills are over, let's go out and see where the banging is going to start."


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