Brown needs his nap time

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

EDMONTON -- It's not hard to miss Doug Brown.

So it's just as easy to notice when the 6-foot-8, 290-pound defensive tackle is missing.

There was no sign of Brown -- Winnipeg's outstanding player, outstanding defensive player and outstanding Canadian in 2008 -- when the Bombers conducted their walk-through yesterday afternoon at Clarke Field.

Brown missed a couple of practices earlier this week due to the flu, and head coach Mike Kelly said the 34-year-old was still feeling a little under the weather after the flight to the Alberta capital.

"He's great. He's having a nap," Kelly said when asked about his defensive star. "We try to hydrate the players. We give the players a bottle of water before they get on the plane. He just had a little headache, and why put him out there and have him running around and elevate his blood pressure?

"You know how those old guys get. They need a nap in the middle of the afternoon. We had green Jell-O sent up to him."

The Bombers need Brown to take advantage of a depleted Eskimos offensive line. Centre John Comiskey is out for several weeks (former Bomber Aaron Fiacconi will take his place), and left tackle Garrick Jones is on the nine-game injured list.

Former Bomber and Kenora native Kyle Koch will start at left guard and will be responsible for helping keep Brown off Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray.

"He's as good as they come," Koch said, "so you better be ready."

HONESTLY?: Bombers right guard Kelly Bates, acquired in an off-season trade with the B.C. Lions, admitted that he was a little skeptical at first when it came to Winnipeg's revamped offensive line.

The only real returnee is left guard Brendon LaBatte. The other four played elsewhere or, in centre Obby Khan's case, hardly at all in 2008.

"With so many new guys, I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried," Bates said. "Once I got to camp, once I met the coaches and once I met the players, there's a solid, veteran group here that understands that you need to be professional, you need to know how to work together both on and off the field.

"It's just been, on top that, enjoyable. I'm enjoying myself for the first time in a few years, and that just brings the group together that much quicker."

LATE HITS: The Bombers left receiver Aaron Hargreaves at home, which is significant because placekicker Alexis Serna picked him to be his holder this season. Quarterback Stefan LeFors is expected to perform the duties tonight ... A diehard fan watching the Bomber walk-through yesterday said tonight's game marks only the fourth time in modern CFL history that two rookie head coaches (Kelly and Edmonton's Richie Hall) have faced off in their debuts. We'll take his word for it ... The Bombers have only four players left on their practice roster after linebacker Jasper Johnson decided to go home earlier this week... Winnipeg has placed offensive lineman Lorne Plante on the disabled list.

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PLAYER TO WATCH ...

Stefan LeFors, No. 17

It's Game 1 of the Stefan LeFors era, and all eyes will be on the left-hander from Louisiana. Did Mike Kelly make the right call? Is LeFors the next Khari Jones or T.J. Rubley? It's finally time to start finding out.

Numbers Game ...

1-6-1 -- Winnipeg's record at Commonwealth Stadium since 2002

12 -- Returning starters for the Bombers, meaning exactly half the lineup has been changed.

19 -- Games Eskimos running back Jesse Lumsden played over the last two seasons in Hamilton due to numerous injuries.


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