New Blue receiver familiar with new Blue QB

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Brock Ralph was on the nine-game injured list but healthy enough to practise and Stefan LeFors was the third-string quarterback, so the two got plenty of face time together last season in Edmonton.

Now they're both members of the Blue Bombers after Winnipeg yesterday traded backup Canadian safety Jason Nugent and future considerations to the Eskimos for the 6-foot-3 Ralph.

The Blue and Gold also put a halt to their free agent exodus, re-signing import linebacker Ike Charlton. That move came after Alex Gauthier, Dominic Picard, Kyle Koch and Graeme Bell all left for greener pastures.

The Bombers said every member of their management team was too busy to speak to the media yesterday, although head coach Mike Kelly did an hour-long radio show last night with the team's radio rights holder.

LeFors was dealt to Winnipeg last month and is in the running to be the starter this season.

That would make Ralph a happy camper.

"Stef and I got a lot, a lot of reps together," Ralph said last night from Edmonton. "Our lockers were right beside one another, and we talked every day about making sure that we torched the defence and kind of made that our goal.

"He has some trust in me as receiver, and I know I do him throwing the ball."

Ralph, a 28-year-old from Raymond, Alta., might also go a long way to solving Winnipeg's ratio problem, created Monday when it replaced Gauthier with import Glenn January.

Winnipeg now has seven solid Canadians they can put on the field. Ralph might even take the slot position of Milt Stegall, who will announce his retirement at a press conference today.

Ralph caught only 13 passes for 164 yards last season despite playing in 10 games. He broke two pieces of bone off his spinal cord in September and missed the rest of the season.

Even though he was the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' leading receiver in 2007 with 721 yards, he's not surprised to be called an underachiever.

"If I can stay healthy and do what's expected of me and what I expect of myself, I think my best seasons are ahead," he said. "I really do."

Ralph has mixed feeling about the trade, mainly because he asked to be dealt from Hamilton to Alberta last February since his four-year-old daughter, Oakley, has autism.

Ralph said Alberta offers the best services for children with the disorder.

"I'm gonna have to figure out some solution that's going to work for my family," Ralph said.

Hamilton, meanwhile, with Greg Marshall as its new defensive co-ordinator, made a huge push for Charlton, even offering him more money than the Bombers gave him.

But the 31-year-old wanted to come back and Winnipeg really wants him to be their strong-side linebacker.

Charlton, who signed for a year and an option, is working out like a fiend to ensure he doesn't get hurt like he did last year, missing six games because of a groin injury.

He also said there's a "sickening taste" in his mouth after last year's 8-10 season and early exit from the playoffs.

"The people of Winnipeg, they're owed a better season than what we put on the field last year," Charlton said from his Cleveland home.


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