Appropriate timing

Bombers fullback Graeme Bell returned to action last week on the same day his attacker was...

Bombers fullback Graeme Bell returned to action last week on the same day his attacker was sentenced. SUN MEDIA/Brian Donogh

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

Talk about appropriate timing.

The man who randomly assaulted Graeme Bell outside a Saskatoon bar last year pleaded guilty and was handed a 2 1/2-year prison sentence on Friday -- the same day that Bell, a Winnipeg Blue Bombers fullback, played his first game since the vicious attack.

A Saskatoon Crown attorney sent a text message to Bell -- five minutes before Winnipeg's home opener against the Toronto Argonauts -- to let him know that the sentence had been handed down.

Bell's attacker received a 30-month sentence but got seven months knocked off for time served.

"That was good," Bell said. "The lawyer phoned me (Thursday) and asked me what I thought of it. I said, 'You know what? As long as he cleans up.' So we'll have to see.

"We'll have to wait and see if he improves his behaviour, but nonetheless I'm happy with everything and just happy to be back playing."

Bell needed brain surgery after the May 12, 2007, attack in which his assailant hit him in the head with a baseball bat. Bell couldn't speak after the assault and needed several months of rehabilitation before he felt like his old self again.

The 27-year-old said he had moved on from the incident many months ago, but he said Friday's guilty plea and sentencing officially puts it to bed.

"He's serving some time, so I can just move on and look forward to the season," Bell said. "It's kind of ironic. First game back and he gets sentenced, but I moved on a long time ago before this."

Bell missed both of Winnipeg's pre-season games with a pulled hamstring, so Friday night's game, a 23-16 loss to the Argos, marked the first time since his surgery that he knocked heads with an opponent at full speed.

"There was nothing," he said. "No repercussions."

'FIRED UP'

Bell, in fact, recorded the first special teams tackle on Friday when he brought down Argos returner Dominique Dorsey on the opening kickoff. Nothing was going to stop him from making that tackle.

"I've been fired up since I knew I was going to come back here," he said. "It was good just to get down and make the tackle. I want to get five of those a game. I just want to contribute wherever I can, whatever the element is."

Bell is one of several players who will be looked upon to fill the void left by the departure of Winnipeg's top two special teams tacklers from last season, Kyries Hebert and Adrian Baird.

He's off to a good start, as his two special teams takedowns against the Argos have him tied for the team lead.


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