Walls tumbling down

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

Winnipeg's playoff hopes have suffered a serious blow.

Veteran Blue Bombers defensive end Gavin Walls will undergo reconstructive surgery on a ruptured ACL on Oct. 22 and is lost for the year, head coach Mike Kelly confirmed yesterday.

The Bombers looked into the possibility of Walls finishing the season wearing a protective knee brace because they were so determined to keep him in the lineup.

"The problem with that is it sets him back as far as his recovery for next season and what would that ultimately do for his career because he still has a very bright future," Kelly said. "We certainly didn't want to tarnish that, either."

'Disappointed'

Walls, 29, has 23 defensive tackles and five sacks this season, and became one of the most influential veterans on the squad. The news comes as the Bombers prepare for a second-place showdown in the CFL East against the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton on Monday.

"We're disappointed, obviously," Kelly said. "Obviously, it's a blow to us because he is truly one of our leaders and is probably one of the more under-appreciated players that we have because he's so steady at what he does that people kind of take him for granted. But he's an awfully good football player and we'll miss him."

Walls, who couldn't be reached for comment, will be replaced by rookie Phillip Hunt, who'd been rotating with Odell Willis at one defensive end spot the last couple of games.

"We feel good about the young players that we have in here," Kelly said. "They'll go out there and play well and wreak havoc of their own. But Gavin's leadership qualities and steady play certainly will be missed."

Willis was acquired from Calgary after veteran defensive end Fred Perry was lost for the season.

That means three rookies -- Hunt (23), Willis (24) and defensive tackle Dorian Smith (24) will line up alongside veteran defensive tackle Doug Brown on Monday.

"I lost a lot of my friends this year and last year," said the 35-year-old Brown, listing Walls, Perry, Tyrone Williams and Jerome Haywood. "It's one thing when you're old and you have younger guys around you so you don't feel old. But all first-year players, wow, that's a generational gap. That's what I'm trying to overcome, man.

"These guys are gifted, talented and enthusiastic youngsters but just can't see the same things and will have to overcome that."

Changes

Brown, though, said he's become used to the constant changes.

"Every game, I don't know what position I'll end up playing or there's a fight or we lose somebody or somebody wants to get traded," he said. "You just never know what's going to happen between now and Monday, so it's one of those things where you just count your blessings on a daily basis and be happy to be here."

Though Willis lost his starting job in Calgary, he's performed admirably for the Bombers.

"When you've played two or three games, you're not a rookie any more," said Willis, adding he has faith in Hunt. "He comes off the ball real good with high energy so I'm looking forward to seeing what he's got."

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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