Bombers juggle O-line

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

Despite coming off their biggest rushing total in more than four years, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are mixing it up on the offensive line.

Right guard Kelly Bates, who was put on the trading block last month, will be watching from the sidelines on Saturday night against the Montreal Alouettes.

Bates has remained in the starting lineup since being offered up as trade bait and was on the field last Saturday when Bombers running back Fred Reid rumbled for 167 yards and two touchdowns. The Blue and Gold had 232 yards on the ground overall in the 31-23 loss to the Calgary Stampeders.

It was the franchise's biggest ground-game output since they dashed for 235 yards, including 195 from Charles Roberts, in a 51-46 win over Montreal on July 22, 2005.

Although he played a role in racking up those numbers, Bates won't start on Saturday when the Bombers (2-4) battle the Alouettes (5-1) at Canad Inns Stadium.

"We felt we needed to get a little better play out of the right guard spot and that Ryan Donnelly has been working very well and what he's done in practice is deserving of getting a look in a game," head coach Mike Kelly said.

Kelly was asked if it was Bates' run blocking or pass protection -- or both -- that was letting the team down.

"We just felt that Ryan needed an opportunity to play," Kelly said.

Bates, an eight-year vet, said all the right things yesterday when asked about the situation.

"The coaches told me they felt I was banged up and it was affecting my mobility and that I needed a rest," said Bates, a 2007 CFL all-star who was acquired from the B.C. Lions in the off-season.

"I don't think I would come to work every day if I didn't want to be in there. But this is in the best interest of the team right now, so this is what I'm doing. I'm going to sit out, I'm going to heal up, and we'll go from there."

There's a chance the Bombers will be making two changes on the O-line this week, as centre Obby Khan missed his second consecutive practice yesterday with a bruised knee. Donnelly has actually taken reps at centre the last two days, while former Alouette Luke Fritz has been practising at right guard.

Kelly said Khan is "probable" for Saturday's clash with the Alouettes, who boast the league's top run defence, allowing only 58 yards per contest. If Khan plays, Donnelly would go to right guard and Fritz would remain in a backup role.

Fritz, who spent seven years in Montreal, would love to start against his former squad. What he really wants, though, is playing time; he hasn't taken a single snap this season despite dressing for all six contests.

"That's my biggest motivation, just getting in there and playing," Fritz said. "I worked really hard this off-season to lose a bunch of weight and get in shape and just extend my career.

"And I also did a lot of soul searching, just trying to figure out what my priorities were. And I found out football is still one of my priorities."

Reid, meanwhile, isn't concerned that the coaching staff is potentially messing with success by removing Bates from the starting O-line.

"I'm pretty sure the coaches are doing it for the best interest of the team," said Reid, who leads Montreal's Avon Cobourne by one yard for the CFL rushing lead. "So if they feel like Luke can come in there and do a little better job than Kelly, then that's probably what it is. I believe in the coaches and the decisions they make."


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