Quick DE on fast track

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

Quick feet. They are must for defensive ends in the CFL, especially for those who toil for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

And while he is not about to unseat either Tom Canada or Gavin Walls, Nick McNeil may have the feet for a future here.

"I call him Quicksilver because his feet are so fast," Bomber defensive line coach Richard Harris said. "He runs really well and he's starting to grasp the game now. He plays with great strength."

The 6-foot-3, 243-pound Western Carolina product -- who led the Bombers with seven defensive tackles in his first taste of CFL action against the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton last week -- will get his last chance to strut his stuff when Winnipeg plays host to the Montreal Alouettes in the club's final pre-season game at Canad Inns Stadium tonight.

"I still have some improvements to make," McNeil said. "You're never satisfied with just numbers, you have to have good technique also and I want to get better at that."

McNeil, 26, spent time with four different NFL teams before landing in Winnipeg.

"I wouldn't say I was frustrated (with the NFL experience) but you know, sometimes, things just don't work out," said McNeil, who could provide some depth at defensive end. "I was blessed with another opportunity here and I'm going to put my all into it and try to make the best of it."

Harris figures McNeil is already capable of being an emergency fill-in.

"Everybody has a role to play and no matter what that role is, I'll fulfill it, whether it's as a backup or whatever," McNeil said.

McNeil will be one of about 40 contenders vying for 20 roster spots tonight.

Another is import receiver Aaron Fairooz.

"Really, everything kind of finishes up (tonight) at the game," said the 6-foot-6, 218-pound Central Arkansas product, who caught a three-yard touchdown pass last week -- his only catch. "I know they have some tough decisions so I have to focus on making big plays and doing everything I can.

"I know I've done pretty well ... Naturally, you're going to feel the pressure of performing, especially on a stage like this. But it doesn't consume me at all because I know what I can do and it's all I can do, and the rest is up to God."

Or at least, Bomber head coach Doug Berry and crew.

"The decisions are going to be very difficult for these last 20 spots," Berry said. "It's pretty easy to identify the first 35 guys and after that, my goodness, it will be tough.

"It will come down to, 'Are you capable of making big plays? Will you do it on a consistent basis? And do you hustle?' That's the bottom line."

And Berry is determined to give all of the hopefuls their fair share of show time tonight.

"We want to make sure that everyone's going to get enough playing time so, that we can get them thoroughly evaluated," he said.


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