Nasty weather no problem, Kelly says

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

A cynic might suggest it was a sign from above that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers should just scrap the 2009 CFL season and come back next year.

Steady rain that travelled horizontally thanks to 63 km/h wind gusts greeted the Blue and Gold at their first official practice as a team yesterday.

Head coach Mike Kelly ended the two-hour practice at the St. James Rods field an hour early, but that was by design since they have three more practice days before Thursday's season-opener in Edmonton.

"The weather had nothing to do with it," he said. "We embrace it. We're the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and we represent the fine people of Manitoba. I don't see anybody shying away from it. We gotta play in it, so we'll practise in it."

Remarkably, a few dozen spectators came out to watch the practice. The Bombers will work out on the Rods field again today at 11 a.m.

PRO DEBUT: Dorian Smith was just getting used to the Canadian game last fall when the Bombers released him after only three weeks on their practice roster.

So the defensive tackle from Oregon State went back to Corvallis, Ore., finished off his degree and got a real job working with at-risk youth.

None of it dashed his dream of playing pro football, though.

"I got more focused. It lit a bigger fire," Smith said yesterday. "I got a full-time job and had to work and see what the real world was like. I saw that I wanted to play football and not work a real job."

Smith got invited back to Winnipeg this year by the new regime and cracked the team's 46-man roster.

The best part?

He will start beside Doug Brown in Edmonton because projected starter Tyrone Williams, who practised yesterday, is on the one-game injured list.

"This is what you wish for," Smith said. "I'm a professional football player, and I'm about to start my first game. So I feel great."

LATE HITS: Five of Winnipeg's seven practice roster spots have been claimed: linebackers Nick Kordic and Neil Ternovatsky, defensive tackle Montez Murphy, offensive lineman Thaddeus Coleman and defensive back Jasper Johnson ... Offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte (neck) and defensive end Riall Johnson (undisclosed) watched practice yesterday. Said Kelly about LaBatte's chances of playing Thursday: "We'll see how things go (today)." Luke Fritz moved up to practise with the starting O-line yesterday ... Linebacker Siddeeq Shabazz and receiver Brock Ralph practised after missing both pre-season games. Kelly said Shabazz (ankle) is seven to 10 days ahead of schedule and could play against the Eskimos. Joe Lobendahn was in Shabazz's spot yesterday ... With James Johnson nursing a knee injury, the starting secondary yesterday consisted of Jovon Johnson, Keyuo Craver, Lenny Walls, Jonathan Hefney and Ian Logan.


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