Gaining momentum

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

First, the news.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers not only announced the re-signing of team sack leader Gavin Walls yesterday, they also struck a deal with former B.C. defensive tackle Tyrone Williams.

Apparently the team's scouting report on Williams -- scribbled on an old napkin, we presume -- looks past the man's age, which is 36.

Now the view, at least from here.

During an off-season fraught with uncertainty, maybe new head coach Mike Kelly's program is finally gaining some momentum.

When he hasn't been busy hiring new executives or lobbing grenades at old ones, Kelly has managed to bring back some talent (Fred Reid and Kelly Malveaux kick-started things a while back).

At the very least, Kelly doesn't have a mass exodus on his hands.

Oh, there are still reasons for players and fans, alike, to be a tad nervous.

Rookie head coach -- check.

Defensive co-ordinator who hasn't coached in Canada for a dozen years -- check.

Unproven quarterback -- check.

Revamped front office -- check.

Heck, you'd be tempted to call it a rebuilding year (copyright Jim Daley, 2005) if you didn't know better.

Kelly knows better.

Ditto, the players who are signing, apparently.

Although Walls, from his home in Virginia, admits there were some tenuous moments as he watched the Feb. 15 free agency date creep closer.

"We've had a lot of changes. I took time to think about that," Walls, who turns 29 today, told the Sun. "It was like, every day, a surprise, from last season, as far as trades, in the office, coaches, a lot of people. I don't know what defence they're going with.

"I could have tested the market. But at the same time, I still feel something's missing that deserves to be there, and that's a Grey Cup."

So he's back for a fifth go-round, a small raise in his pocket, a new teammate at his side.

Say hello to Williams, a 6-foot-6, 288-pound specimen who, paired with Doug Brown, gives Winnipeg its own Twin Towers.

Washed up?

Don't tell Williams that.

B.C. Lions boss Wally Buono already did.

"I was pretty much unceremoniously dumped," Williams said from his home state of Washington. "I don't appreciate the way it went down. It knocked the wind out of me. For maybe a week I was down. And I actually felt, at that point, old.

"But then resiliency kicked in. I'm not going to let somebody tell me when I'm done. You can call it what you want, a rebirth, or whatever. So I've got great motivation this off-season."

And no trepidation about where he's going.

The way the two-time CFL all-star sees it, the Winnipeg and B.C. D-lines have been the top two in the CFL the last few years. He aims to keep that reputation alive, here.

Not much scares a guy like Williams. Not even Kelly's plan to give Stefan LeFors a shot at the starting quarterback's job.

"He's a good quarterback. I've played against him," Williams said. "He reminds me a lot of the Buck Pierce-type quarterback. He can run if he needs to. And he can get the ball there. It'll be interesting.

"I think most of the key components are in place already."

Well, an offensive line would help.

That's where the Bombers still face a potentially crippling exodus, with Alexandre Gauthier, Dominic Picard, Matt O'Meara and Kyle Koch all 17 days from becoming free agents.

From his home in Calgary, Gauthier sounded optimistic about getting a deal done -- and still a tad uncertain about what kind of team he might return to.

"Yes, you can be a little nervous about it. There's going to be lots of change," Gauthier said. "But it can be for the best or for the worst."

Stay tuned.

If nothing else, there's rarely a dull moment.


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