LaBatte on ice for crucial tilt

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

The rookie guard they call 'Blue' will be taken right out of the gridiron ice here tomorrow night.

Brendon LaBatte, one of Winnipeg's top offensive linemen all season, will miss the critical CFL contest against the Toronto Argonauts after suffering concussion-like symptoms most of the week.

"He's pretty much the first day of symptom-free (yesterday) but we'd be cutting it close to playing him this week," Blue Bombers head coach Doug Berry said yesterday.

Matt O'Meara, who started two games earlier this season, will replace LaBatte with veteran Bobby Singh backing him up. That means that Obby Khan, the veteran who has been recovering from having his large intestines removed, will sit out.

"Obby wants to be a good football player," Berry said. "He wants to be the way he was and so do we. He's just not there right now. He needs to go right from the very beginning of training camp and spend the time on all those skills and things.

"It's not his body weight, it's not his strength. It's just his timing, his reactions. I really like Obby Khan and I'd like to have him in that huddle. But he's just not where we need him to be."

Khan replaced LaBatte after he had his bell rung in last week's game against Edmonton and was flagged for several infractions.

SINGH READY TO GO

"(O'Meara's) played for us this year and done well when he's been in there and we feel real comfortable with him in there," Berry explained. "Bobby Singh will be available to us and if we have an opportunity, we'll get him in the game. I'd like to get him in the flow of things. It would be nice if we need to get Bobby in later in the year to give him this opportunity."

O'Meara said he prepares for all games as if he is going to start.

"The Argos have a good D-line," said the 6-foot-5, 285-pound Milton, Ont., native. "But so does every team in the CFL. I get to go against one of the best in practice every day so you've just got to be ready, prepared and be ready to go."

Winnipeg heads into the match alone in second in the CFL East with a woeful 5-9 record. The Argos are just two points behind at a laughable 4-10. The winner will have the edge on securing the second, and likely, last playoff berth in the East.

RETURNERS RETURN: Funny, it was not that long ago that kick returners Jason Armstead and Keith Stokes were looking for work. Now, they will be playing against each other tomorrow night as Stokes has joined the Argos.

"I have a lot of respect for Keith," Armstead said. "Keith is a great returner. He's electrifying; he makes plays and he's not easy to go down.

"So, my hat's off to him and I congratulate him on finding another job."

HASHMARKS: WR Aaron Hargreaves will likely replace FB Brian Guebert on tomorrow's roster ... CB Willie Amos (hamstring) is slated to return next week ... The game is being promoted as the Retro Rematch as both squads will don the retro look for the second time this season. Local weather broadcasters will be wearing retro merchandise the next two days.


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