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PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

The mad scientist is definitely up to something. But what?

Blue Bombers head coach Mike Kelly has left running backs Fred Reid and Joe Smith here in Winnipeg for tonight's final preseason game in Montreal.

The significance of that, you ask?

Well, Reid and Smith didn't play in the first preseason game, either, and when's the last time you saw a head coach sit out his No. 1 and No. 2 running backs for the entire pre-season?

Never, that's when. Not when they're healthy.

Could we be headed for a summer without Thunder and Lightning?

Kelly has tried to cloud the issue, claiming on Sunday that he wanted to let both backs heal up from some minor nicks.

This a day after he talked about the importance of playing hurt at this time of year.

"There's a difference between being injured and being hurt," Kelly said on the weekend. "If you're injured, you probably oughta have something dangling on you. If you're just hurt, you gotta play through it."

Last time we checked, nothing was dangling from Reid or Smith that wasn't supposed to be. They haven't looked nicked in recent practices.

Confused, yet?

Normally, when established veterans are left at home for a pre-season game, it's because they've already got a spot on the team (see D-lineman Doug Brown, who's also home tonight).

To miss both games, though, suggests something else entirely.

This could be trouble for a running tandem that became fan favourites last season, one for his elusiveness and breakaway speed, one for his power.

Reid was a CFL East all-star in '08, breaking out from the sizable shadow of the little guy, Charles Roberts, with a gaudy seven-yard average on his 101 carries.

And when Big Joe, the league's leading rusher in '07, came over from B.C. in the Roberts trade last September, the Bombers, it seemed, had the perfect one-two punch: tire out the defence with Reid for three quarters, then bash 'em with Smith in the fourth.

Clearly, that's not the plan for '09, in what figures to be Professor Kelly's most second-guessed move since he retreated to his lab and came up with Stefan LeFors as his starting quarterback.

The question is, which one's going to go: Reid or Smith?

How about both?

Don't scoff. Kelly has no problem making bold moves. And the way he's talking about CFL rookies Lavarus Giles and Yvenson Bernard makes you wonder.

Kelly's actions speak even louder.

The two newcomers combined for 131 yards last week, and they're back in uniform tonight. What do you think happens if both look good, again?

Reid and Smith might not even get a chance to make their own team.

The saying goes you never lose your starting job to injury. But how about inactivity?

Fair? Hell, no, it wouldn't be fair.

But this is Kelly's team, now. And if he can put his stamp on it by stamping out two more names from the Doug Berry/Brendan Taman regime, he might just do it.

Remember when Kelly predicted some of his cuts would probably wind up making other teams?

Well, so far they haven't. But he could probably make that come true by releasing Reid and/or Smith.

Trading them is the other option, and the way personnel boss John Murphy wheels and deals, he could get that done by tonight's fourth quarter.

Kelly and Murphy might even be convinced the moves will make the Bombers better. And who knows, maybe they will.

The beauty of it is, time will certainly tell.

Maybe we're wrong. Maybe Thunder and Lightning will be back.

There's something in the air, though. And the mad scientist is still mixing ingredients.

Personally, I'd get ready for another explosion.


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