Bomber QB ready to start

PAUL FRIESEN, SPORTS COLUMNIST

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Tomorrow will not be the first time Stefan LeFors starts a CFL game at quarterback.

But taking his Winnipeg Blue Bombers onto the field in Edmonton will be completely different than the handful of games he started for the Eskimos two years ago.

"This one's the opening day starter -- so it's a big deal for me," LeFors told the Sun.

This time, he's not just trying to hold the fort for the injured star, like he did for Ricky Ray in '07.

For the first time in his pro career, LeFors will be the guy, a 28-year-old on the cusp of a potentially defining moment.

How he reacts won't make or break the Bomber season, but it'll start the pendulum swinging one way or the other.

In this situation, with all the question marks swirling around his head, and that of the head coach who handpicked him, nobody has to tell LeFors how critical Week 1 is.

"Very important. To get off on the right foot," he said. "It'd be great to come out of there with a win, just to get that first one out of the way. People aren't sure what we are and what we're going to be doing."

LeFors, though, is sure of what he is.

"I'm confident in myself and what I can do. Obviously, it's an important piece to the puzzle."

At the same time, LeFors echoes the notion head coach Mike Kelly has been offering: that it won't all be on his shoulders, all the time.

"Guys are supporting me, and they're going to be there for me when things are going good and when things aren't going so well," he said. "I have a lot of trust in those guys, that they'll play hard."

Looking across the field at the Eskimos, LeFors will see the team that buried him at No. 3 on the depth chart last season, behind Ray and Jason Maas.

Added motivation, or does he appreciate the trade that sent him to a place he could call his own?

"A little bit of both," LeFors said. "I understand what my situation was there. If I would have remained there, it would have been tough. So I'm thankful they let me get out of there."

The lefthander from Louisiana left Edmonton with five career starts to his name, all losses. And all lessons learned.

"It was my first year, so I was just kind of learning on the fly and things were going really fast for me," he said. "This time around, everything's slowed down a little bit."

When thinking about his goals for '09, LeFors is methodical, too.

"I haven't thought about yards or touchdowns or all the stats," he said. "I want to have a good completion percentage, keep the turnovers down to a minimum. Those are the main things. Get first downs, move the ball, avoid a lot of two and outs.

"But obviously, wins are big."

The first one, especially.

REMATCH? WHAT REMATCH? Seems nobody in blue and gold has revenge on his mind from last year's division semifinal, won by the Eskimos.

"The teams are so brand new, we haven't talked about that at all," receiver Arjei Franklin said.

Franklin will return punts for the first time since he pulled down three as a rookie in '06.

Handling kickoff returns will be running backs Fred Reid and Lavarus Giles.

WEIGHTY ADDITION: D-lineman Doug Brown checked back into practice yesterday, declaring himself 85% healed from a flu virus.

"Your first day back after you've purged 11 pounds from your body in two days is not pretty," Brown said. "But I'm glad I came out here and went through it."

KELLY BREAKS SILENCE: Head coach Mike Kelly ended his one-day media boycott, speaking with reporters the day after a confrontation with a TV crew left him seething.

With all the question marks swirling around his team, Kelly promised fans one thing on Thursday.

"That we'll show up on time and play our rear ends off."

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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