Trouble brewing with Blue

Bombers receiver Derick Armstrong made the decision not to play against the Esks on Thursday. (Sun...

Bombers receiver Derick Armstrong made the decision not to play against the Esks on Thursday. (Sun Media/Jason Halstead)

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:19 PM ET

EDMONTON -- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are only one game into the CFL season, but trouble is already brewing between head coach Mike Kelly and one of his star players.

Wideout Derick Armstrong, a 1,000-yard receiver the past two seasons, refused to play in Thursday night's season-opening loss to the Edmonton Eskimos after Kelly made him a designated import.

"I made the decision to not (play)," Armstrong said Friday morning at Edmonton International Airport. "I didn't want to rotate. I felt like I didn't have to rotate, given the years and experience that I've played in this game.

"They didn't give me the most respect and let me know ahead of time, so I just figured I would return the same favour. Whatever happens, happens.

"... If they would've let me know (earlier) it would've been a lot better, but they didn't let me know until, like, pretty much the last minute. By then I was frustrated. I wasn't even thinking about the game. I was thinking about what's going on."

Armstrong dressed for Thursday night's 19-17 loss to the Eskimos, but he didn't see any action. His presence probably would have helped, considering first-year Bomber starting quarterback Stefan LeFors passed for only 174 yards.

After the game, Kelly refused to comment when asked why Armstrong, who has been hobbled by a bothersome knee since last season, didn't play.

"I don't want to talk about Derick right now," Kelly said.

The Bombers ran into roster woes on Thursday since Canadian defensive tackle Doug Brown was unable to play due to the flu. It meant they dressed only 41 players instead of the maximum 42, but it should not have affected the ratio since they replaced Brown with Canadian rookie Don Oramasionwu.

"That's another thing that I'm concerned about and I'm worried about," Armstrong said. "I don't know. They're going to have to explain some things to me.

"... I don't know what they did. They screwed up something. I'm very mad. There was talk about some ratio thing and whatever and whatever. I know one thing, that I was was frustrated."

CFL teams name three designated imports each game. They are import backups who are allowed to replace only other imports. It's not known who Winnipeg's other two DIs were against the Eskimos, but there's a good chance they were kicker Alexis Serna and linebacker Siddeeq Shabazz.

That would mean running back Lavarus Giles got a starting spot over Armstrong, who likely would have rotated with Adarius Bowman had he played.

Armstrong, 30, dealt with a nagging knee injury last season, but he missed only one game because of it. He has a brace for it this year, but he has been given several practices off to rest the knee and get it as close to 100% as possible.

Armstrong, who appeared in 35 games for the NFL's Houston Texans between 2003 and 2005, bristled at the notion that his knee problem might have led to his platoon role on Thursday night.

"I do the things that they ask me to do to prepare myself to play," Armstrong said. "I don't want to talk about what I do to get ready and everything, but I do things that most guys wouldn't do to prepare to go play. I'm better than ... I don't want to say it, man.

"I'm very disappointed. They're going to know that I'm very disappointed. They can look at it how they want to.

"If they want to release or trade or whatever they want to do, then they need to let me know something, because I'm not going to sit here and just have another one of those things happen to me."

Armstrong, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound Texas native, wants to remain with the Bombers, who signed him in September 2006 after his NFL aspirations dried up. He has 189 receptions for 2,454 yards and 14 touchdowns in 40 games with the Blue and Gold.

"Of course I want to play for this team," he said. "I've been playing with it for a while."


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