Wind in rookie Bombers' sails

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

If dealing with one of the coldest June days in Winnipeg history wasn't enough, Blue Bomber rookies yesterday faced the prospect of a much tougher foe this weekend.

The veterans.

Some 50 vets will report for training camp today, beginning with medicals. On-field workouts begin tomorrow.

So after three days of smacking heads with each other, first-year players will quickly find out where they stand in the bigger picture.

"You can see as some of them are progressing over the last couple of practices, their confidence level is starting to show," head coach Mike Kelly said. "But now it'll get shattered in another 48 hours. Some of these guys are in for it within the next couple of days."

One of those with some confidence is quarterback Darrell Hackney, the 6-foot, 248-pound pivot from Atlanta, who had little trouble strong-arming the ball through yesterday's stiff breeze.

"I think I have a good chance -- I can throw through this cutting wind," Hackney said. "It's not going to be a problem. That's a big advantage. I just have to keep studying and keep studying and keep studying. The more I study, the more I understand the defences here in the Canadian league, the better chance I have to succeed."

Hackney prefers to look at the addition of the vets, especially the receivers, as a positive, too.

"It will make a big difference. Getting a bond with those guys on the field ... understanding how they run the type of routes they run. Once the veterans come in and guide us and help me out, and help the other quarterbacks out, we'll be much better."

Kelly was actually happy with the progress of his passers on a lousy day for offence.

"Obviously, Hackney has a special arm," he said. "But I thought all of them performed pretty well in the wind."

The cold was another thing, particularly for players like running back Lavarus Giles and defensive back John Eubanks, both from Mississippi.

"I was expecting it to be cold, but not like that," Giles said.

Eubanks, too, said it took some getting used to.

"I'm still having a hard time believing it's June," Eubanks said.

TRIM TIME: Kelly says he'll release between six and eight rookies before main camp opens tomorrow morning.

"You can already tell some guys that will be able to compete, some guys that will be here and help us save some legs and some guys that should just go ahead and try somewhere else," the coach said.

Rules for main camp allow 68 players, plus draftees and other non-counters, like juniors.

So far, no word on any vets not being able to make it, but stay tuned.

"There's always those travel snafus," Kelly said. "Somebody might get their passport drycleaned or something, and have to get a new one. There's always those kind of things. We'll just play it by ear."

HASH MARKS: Among the walking wounded yesterday were O-lineman Mike Morris (ankle), Winnipeg's first draft pick this year, and DB Darrius Battles (foot) ... Punter Brendan Bowman from the University of Manitoba, with the junior Winnipeg Rifles last season, practised yesterday. The Bombers wanted to look at him for future reference.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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