Practice roster spot keeps dream alive

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:28 AM ET

The biggest name the Bombers cut yesterday was Joe Smith.

The next ones on that list would be defensive backs Ronyell Whitaker and Jasper Johnson, who had strong training camps but just couldn't make the grade.

"They're good football players and really good men, but it speaks volumes to the guys that we kept," head coach Mike Kelly said.

The pair could stick around on Winnipeg's practice roster, which Kelly hopes to firm up today, but it's unlikely Whitaker, who has 31 games of NFL experience, would accept $500 a week.

A younger player like the 24-year-old Johnson, who led the Bombers with 14 tackles in the pre-season, is more apt to sign a PR deal. Offensive lineman Thaddeus Coleman, also released yesterday, is a sure bet to join the practice roster.

"We've talked to a couple of them, and right now I'm hearing that people want to be Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and that's always music to my ears," Kelly said.

Three players who didn't make the 46-man roster yesterday, but were placed on the injured list were cornerback James Johnson, defensive tackle Tyrone Williams and safety Steven Holness.

The injuries to Johnson and Williams are likely the reason why cornerback Brandon Stewart and defensive tackle Dorian Smith were two of the bigger surprises to land on the 46-man roster.

When that trio is healthy enough to play, it will alter the look of the 46-man and practice rosters. So will the return of linebacker Siddeeq Shabazz, who is on the disabled list after suffering an ankle injury prior to camp.

The Bombers open the regular season on Thursday night in Edmonton against the Eskimos.

BABY FACES: There are seven rookies on Winnipeg's 46-man roster, including running backs Lavarus Giles and Yvenson Bernard, defensive tackles Don Oramasionwu and Dorian Smith, punter Mike Renaud, safety Brady Browne and Jonathan Hefney.

"We're pointed in the right direction right now, and it's because of a lot of these young guys and the energy they've brought here," Kelly said.

RETURN ENGAGEMENT? Speaking of kick returners, Kelly said the Bombers have no interest right now in signing Casey McGahee, who was released by the Saskatchewan Roughriders yesterday.

McGahee had a punt-return touchdown for the Bombers in their regular-season finale against Hamilton last November. The Bombers don't have an established returner after letting Ramonce Taylor go last week.

"I think we've got people here who can handle the chore," Kelly said.

LATE HITS: Director of player personnel director John Murphy said offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte, who apparently suffered a burner on Tuesday night in Montreal, is fine ... Among the 50 players the Bombers currently have in camp, only 24 finished last season with the club. Thirteen of them were starters ... The team has today off before returning to the practice field tomorrow on the St. James Rods field due to a concert being held at Canad Inns Stadium ... Other notable cuts across the league yesterday were QB Brad Banks (Montreal), DE Brandon Guillory (Hamilton), LB Reggie Hunt (Montreal) and RB Tyler Ebell (Toronto). Hamilton put running back Kenton Keith on the nine-game injured list ... The Calgary Stampeders have signed quarterback Henry Burris, last year's Grey Cup MVP, to a four-year contract extension.

FALLEN BOMBER: The Winnipeg Football Club is mourning the recent passing of Charlie Shepard, a member of the franchise's hall of fame.

The fullback and kicker spent six seasons in Blue and Gold, from 1957 to 1962. He scored a touchdown and was named MVP of the 1959 Grey Cup, which the Bombers won 21-7 over Hamilton.

In 1958, Shepard had 247 yards and a touchdown in Winnipeg's 35-28 triumph over the Tiger-Cats.

He was inducted into the team's hall of fame in 1992.


Videos

Photos