Preparing for another critical game, this time against Edmonton, here, Friday, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were yesterday rocked by the news defensive back Jovon Johnson's brother was shot to death Monday night.
A starting defensive back, Johnson left the team after receiving a call that his 15-year-old brother, Daquan Crosby, was gunned down in Johnson's home town, Erie, Penn.
"To have your 15-year-old sibling shot and killed ... that's unfathomable," lineman Doug Brown said last night. "I can't even imagine. Talk about an unbelievable, unspeakable tragedy. I don't think there's a guy in that locker-room who can relate to what he's going through."
In his first year with the Bombers, Johnson, 24, has started every game this season.
He leads the team with two fumble recoveries, and shares the lead with a pair of interceptions.
It's not clear when Johnson will return, but he's not expected back for Friday's game.
The 4-8 Bombers are locked in a race for a playoff spot with the Toronto Argonauts.
Reports indicate Johnson's brother died in a hospital emergency room, shortly after being shot in the chest, Monday evening.
Berry broke the news to the team yesterday.
"It's quite a shock hearing that," Brown said. "Coach Berry told us situations like this obviously put the game in perspective. It just doesn't compare."
ROSTER SHUFFLE: Johnson's place in the Bomber defence was shared by veteran Robert Bean and newcomer Justin Phinisee yesterday.
Bean, coming off a torn ligament in his thumb two months ago, says he's not quite 100%, but close.
"It's about 75, 80%," he said. "We've gotta tape it up and put a splint on it so it won't bend back. I'm ready now. I just worry about catching with this hand."
Berry says Bean's experience gives him the edge over Phinisee, who's only been in camp a week.
"It's nice to have Robert Bean as an option, available," Berry said. "A lot of things happen back there in the secondary, a lot of coverage calls. So having done it as many times as he's done it, he would certainly have the upper hand there.
"And whether or not we'll decide to go with Canadian talent, that's a third option."
That option includes 25-year-old rookies Steven Holness and Marc Beswick.
RAZZLE-DAZZLE? BRING IT ON: Berry remains thrilled with quarterback Kevin Glenn's play-calling, including two gambles -- one that worked, one that didn't -- in last Friday's win over Hamilton.
Glenn called both the second-and-short bomb that resulted in a Derick Armstrong touchdown and the running back option that led to Fred Reid's intercepted pass in the Ticats end zone.
"I tell him, 'Just because I OK it to go in the game plans, you feel you've got the courage to call it?' " Berry said. "He comes back and says, 'It's on the game plan, I'm going to call it.' It was a great call. Both of them. Right time, right place."
Glenn says even failed trick plays can accomplish something.
"You've got to be confident and not be scared to call plays like that," he said. "It keeps the defence on their toes."
BERRY MATH: The coach has figured out what it'll take over the last six games for his team to secure a playoff spot.
The Bombers are tied with Toronto, at 4-8.
"We've got to win five games and one of them's got to be Toronto," Berry said.
"That's the only thing that you can control. That guarantees us second spot. This is one of those five we've got to win."
Fans seem to agree: ticket sales passed the 26,000-mark yesterday.