All for one, one for all

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

They lost a brother this week. Not in literal terms, maybe, it sure feels like it for the Winnipeg Blue Bomber receivers.

If there's one thing we've learned from the Derick Armstrong saga, it's how tight this group is.

Tighter, they tell us, than any group of receivers they've been with before.

"Always has, and always will be," Terence Edwards was saying yesterday. "It started when I got here in '07, and it's gonna continue that way. For some reason, this group has clicked instantly. I can't say the reason why, but we love playing with each other.

"It hasn't been this tight everywhere I've been. I don't know why. I don't know if it was Milt's presence, but it just continues."

Not easy week

Milt's gone, of course. Packed his bags for a stop at the Blue Bomber Hall of Fame this week, the Canadian Football Hall in another couple of years. Kind of like the eldest leaving home.

And now the next oldest, Armstrong, is gone, too. But on far unfriendlier terms.

This was not an easy week to be a Bomber pass catcher.

"It's like we lost a brother," Arjei Franklin agreed. "The family's taken some hits the last little bit. And it's tough. But with a guy like coach Dyce leading us, he reminds us that we have each other, and we'll make it through this."

That would be Bobby Dyce, the Bomber receivers coach.

His players say the Winnipegger's guidance has been critical to keeping this group focused through a rough time.

Let's face it: it would have been easy for these guys to get into a funk after seeing their friend clash with the head coach and finally, yesterday, get released.

Dyce wouldn't let them.

"It's been huge," Franklin, a four-year Bomber, said. "He's definitely kept us positive and kept us motivated throughout the week, where we're just looking forward to getting on that field and showing it."

Edwards puts it this way: Dyce is like one of the guys, except he commands respect. A friend when you need him to be, a coach when he needs to be.

"He's been right there in our ear, just pushing us to continue to get better," Edwards said. "That's what a coach is there for. You need to stick together. When you lose one, you've got to unify. And coach Dyce has been there to keep us focused and on the right track."

The longest serving coach on the staff, with six years under his belt, Dyce says he tries to create the same atmosphere with his receivers that he's seen with offensive linemen over the years. Linemen are often known to work, play and eat together.

So if it can work with the Hogs, why not the Hands?

"The closer they are and the more they know about each other and how they play makes them more successful on the field," Dyce said.

Which brings us to this team's prospects for 2009, in general, and tomorrow's home opener against Calgary, specifically.

Receiver was pegged to be one of the Bombers' strong suits, a security blanket for first-year starting quarterback Stefan LeFors. If this unit gets forced off the rails, look out.

The Armstrong conflict has the potential to do just that.

"If anything, maybe this incident makes them a little tighter," Dyce said. "I haven't done anything specific to address it. It was an unfortunate situation, but we've all moved forward from it."

Dyce downplays his effect on the receiving corps this week.

But, really, it's his work over the last few years that's being put to the test.

"He's the one who's kept it together as tight as it has been," Edwards said.

They'll need it.

Because all eyes will be on the brothers, to see if they can withstand another hit.


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