Bates barely Blue

Bombers coach Mike Kelly was ready to wave goodbye to offensive lineman Kelly Bates (inset), but an...

Bombers coach Mike Kelly was ready to wave goodbye to offensive lineman Kelly Bates (inset), but an injury prevented the team from releasing him yesterday. (Sun Media/Brian Donogh)

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

It's been one of Mike Kelly's favourite lines on the dinner circuit since he took over as Bomber head coach last December.

"Lyle Bauer apologizes for everything I'm about to say."

The latest instalment of Kelly putting his foot in his mouth unfolded yesterday afternoon when the coach discussed the Kelly Bates situation during an ultimately confusing media briefing.

To be fair, not once did Kelly actually say the word "released" when talking about Bates, but two of his answers left little doubt he believed the veteran offensive lineman was no longer with the team.

Kelly said he appreciated the time Bates had given to the Bombers, and he added he wasn't sure when asked if he thought he would resurface with another CFL team.

"That's somebody else's decision to make," Kelly said. "I can't comment on that. It depends on what other teams need."

Not only that, but Bates didn't practise yesterday and some of his teammates spoke of Bates being cut after the workout.

It turned out, however, that Bates was still a member of the Blue and Gold. Director of football operations Ross Hodgkinson said late yesterday afternoon that the situation will be resolved today.

Bates, who was acquired in the off-season from the B.C. Lions for two late-round draft picks, will either be released or go on the nine-game injured list.

"It's based on the conversation that will be had between him and the club," Hodgkinson said.

It's believed the issue revolves around Bates' health. Winnipeg can't cut the eight-year veteran after they told him earlier this week that he wouldn't play on Saturday against the Montreal Alouettes because he was injured.

If they had cut him, there's a good chance Bates would have filed a grievance with the CFL Players' Association since teams can't release an injured player.

Therefore, Bates will either accept his release or the Bombers will agree to put him on the nine-game injured list, since the grievance process would likely cost the organization more money. It's likely Bates will end up on the injured list and remain a member of the Blue and Gold.

Ryan Donnelly will replace Bates at right guard once Obby Khan is healthy enough to return to his centre position. Khan is unlikely to start Saturday because of a bruised knee. Donnelly, who started 10 games last season, is expected to start at centre on Saturday, and Luke Fritz will line up at right guard against his former team.

Bates, a CFL all-star in 2007, was put on the trading block last month after a rough outing against Hamilton. He continued to play, however, and the Bombers racked up 232 rushing yards in last Saturday's 31-23 loss to Calgary.

The Bombers have also allowed the second-fewest sacks in the CFL with Bates in the starting lineup.

"We think we can be better and that Ryan has really done everything that we've asked of him and when he has gotten playing time that he's graded out very well," Kelly said. "So that's the direction we're going."


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