Working the bugs out

PAUL FRIESEN, SPORTS COLUMNIST

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

They'd been picked by many to win the CFL East and get back to the Grey Cup.

But the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won't accept the suggestion they'd been reading too many of their own press clippings and needed a wakeup call in the form of last Friday's season-opening loss to Toronto.

"We don't take any team for granted," receiver Arjei Franklin said yesterday, as the Bombers returned to practice. "We're too veteran a group to need a wakeup call."

That said, Franklin says there is a sense of urgency as the team begins preparations for this week's tilt, Friday in Montreal.

"It's a big week," he said. "We do not want to go 0-2."

Perhaps that's why Franklin put extra effort into a diving catch of a deflected deep pass late in yesterday's practice.

It was the kind of play head coach Doug Berry wanted to see from all his players after the 23-16, Week 1 loss, and the boss says he got just what he was looking for.

"Good excitement, guys not hanging their heads, just going out there and heeding what we asked them to do," Berry said. "Just get better at what they do, and have some fun and continue to play hard football."

Although practice went a full two-and-a-half hours, there were no punishment laps around the field or unplanned wind sprints, suggesting Berry remains confident his team will work out the bugs through the usual methods.

The bugs included a lack of scoring punch in the red zone, the land inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

The Bombers managed just one touchdown, and that came after a penalty gave them the ball on the Toronto one.

"You can't put your finger on anything," Berry said. "It just didn't happen. The more the offence gets in synch, the better off we'll be."

Berry's only gripe on defence would be his team's inability to make the interception when given a chance.

"I've appealed to the team to do what they need to do to get better at it," he said.

Berry said he's not contemplating any changes to his defence this week.

Chances are the offence will look the same, too, with the exception of starting centre Dominic Picard, out three-to-four weeks with a high angle sprain.

Ryan Donnelly will continue to replace Picard, as Matt Sheridan missed practice again yesterday and is doubtful for Friday.

"He needs to work on his long snaps -- those were somewhat erratic," Berry said of Donnelly. "We'll have to live with how he comes along. We don't have anybody else that's been a centre. Outside of the snaps being errant occasionally, he actually did a good job in the blocking."

CENTRE OF ATTENTION: Anybody who thinks a centre's job is simply to snap the ball should listen to this job description, courtesy of Donnelly.

"You've got to read the defence," he began. "You come up and you've got a guy over top of you, you've got to make the calls for every person on the offensive line, and then you've got to look at who you've got to block, and then you've got to worry about looking back and snapping the ball and remembering what the count is. So there's a lot more mentally to go through at centre."

Not exactly a snap, is it?

"It's the last of the things that you're worried about," Donnelly said. "And sometimes that's the part that's most important."

The former Tiger-Cat hasn't really played centre since Danny McManus was the quarterback.

"WE WEREN'T THAT BAD": Veteran lineman Dan Goodspeed says a look at the Toronto game tape yesterday told him there was no reason to panic.

"I don't think we're that far off," Goodspeed said. "I mean, give some credit to Toronto. They've always had one of the top defences. It shows why, right there. We were moving the ball but couldn't finish it off."

NEW BLOOD: The Bombers have signed O-lineman Darryl Conrad as insurance, and while the former U of M Bison hasn't played centre, he's willing to try.

"If they need me to shotgun snap, I'll shotgun snap," Conrad said. "I'll shotgun snap 400 times if it gives me a chance to stick around here."

A native Winnipegger, Conrad was cut from Montreal's camp this year.

ONE STEP CLOSER: Receiver Milt Stegall was in pads yesterday, but only took part in light drills.

Stegall says his knee is improving every day, but he won't play until he tests the joint in a full practice.

"We'll have to see how it reacts when I start doing the cutting and the route-running I plan on doing in the game," No. 85 said.

The Bombers are hoping Stegall can return Week 3.

ONLY ONE WAY TO GO: The last word goes to quarterback Kevin Glenn, who kicked off his season with three interceptions against the Argos.

"The first thing to do is forget about it," Glenn said. "The only place we can go is up."


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