Armstrong won't be back

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

The official party line was that Derick Armstrong is still a Winnipeg Blue Bomber.

While that might have been technically true, the wide receiver is all but finished after 40 games with the Blue and Gold.

The Bombers were shopping Armstrong around the league yesterday, trying to find a trading partner.

If they can't get someone to take the 30-year-old off their hands, they will likely have to bite the bullet and release him.

"The team is always bigger than any individuals, and we'll just leave it right at that," head coach Mike Kelly said.

Armstrong's teammates, who were instructed to not answer questions about the issue, spoke like he was already gone.

'DISAPPOINTING'

"We all know what kind of player he is," quarterback Stefan LeFors said. "He's a good player, and we'll miss that aspect of it."

Terrence Edwards, one of Armstrong's closest friends and colleagues, looked despondent when speaking with the media.

"It's disappointing. That's about it," said the sullen slotback, his head bowed. "Just very disappointed. He was a good friend and a good player, but (it is) very disappointing."

Asked if he was disappointed specifically about Armstrong's refusal to play in Thursday's season-opening loss to Edmonton, Edwards said he was "disappointed in everything."

Armstrong was told to stay away from practice yesterday after an argument between Kelly and Armstrong in the coach's office escalated to the degree players and coaches in the vicinity had to step between them.

"The conclusion we came to was that it was a pretty sensitive situation that went on, and the best thing for everybody was to give it a cooling off period," director of player personnel John Murphy said.

Armstrong was upset because he arrived on Saturday morning to discover his locker had been cleaned out.

It's believed Kelly ordered that to happen after Armstrong had reiterated comments he first made to the Sun about refusing to play to another media outlet -- instead of trying to make amends.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Texas native refused to enter Thursday's contest after being told not by Kelly, but by receivers coach Bob Dyce, that he was going to be a designated import, or backup, against the Eskimos.

The issue of him not playing had been resolved on Friday, but it fell apart again on Saturday and looks as though it is beyond repair. Edwards said the players would welcome Armstrong back to the locker-room if something can be worked out.

"In my eyes, yeah," Edwards said. "I think this team will embrace him. This is not his character. This is something he hasn't done before. I think the guys would embrace him."

That is unlikely to happen, however. Murphy indicated Armstrong will remain away from the team until it decides what to do with him.

TOLD TO STAY AWAY

"In the long haul we gotta do what's best for this organization," Murphy said, "and what's best is right now for everybody to concentrate on Calgary (Friday's opponent) and for this to not be more of a distraction than it already is."

Murphy also noted that there is nothing more Armstrong can do if he wants to remain in Winnipeg, where he has been a 1,000-yard receiver for the past two seasons.

"At this stage it's now in our hands to decide what we think is best for the organization," Murphy said.

An obvious trade destination for Armstrong would be Hamilton, which has a dearth of quality import receivers. B.C. is another, according to league sources.

The Bombers are apparently hesitant to release Armstrong because they have already paid him approximately $40,000 in roster bonuses.


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