Next-year country

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:24 AM ET

Brock Ralph knows the temptation might be there to stick some C-4 in the Bomber locker-room and light the fuse.

Winnipeg finished with a 7-11 mark, which made it the second-worst team in the CFL this season.

Ralph, a wide receiver, has been down that bumpy road before and survived the ensuing explosion. The resulting mess is never pretty, and he doesn't know how much good it actually does.

"You can make this like a revolving door around here, but I've been a part of that in Hamilton," Ralph said. "We did that for a couple years there, and at some point you have to stick to your guns and try to build something."

Ralph -- and a boatload of other Bombers -- hope continuity (for the most part) reigns in Winnipeg this-off-season.

"It should stay the same," slotback Terrence Edwards said. "We got talent around here. We got a lot of talent. You put our roster against anybody, and nobody will have more talent than we do."

Here are several player-related issues that will shape the look of the Bombers in 2010:

- The Big Question -- Who is going to be Winnipeg's starting quarterback in 2010?

Kelly wants Bishop to return to be a veteran presence, but he will have plenty of competition. Stefan LeFors, Casey Bramlet, Ricky Santos and Adam DiMichele could all get shots next year as well.

Also, negotiation list pivots like Quinn Gray, D.J. Shockley, Curtis Pulley and Joe Webb could get looks.

Bishop answered an SOS in late July, and he wants another chance.

"Would I have liked to go through training camp? Yeah," Bishop said. "But it didn't work out that way, so next year we can come in and all be together and be on the same page."

- Freedom -- Winnipeg has seven potential free agents, and only three of them are starters: cornerback Jovon Johnson on defence, right guard Ryan Donnelly on offence and placekicker Alexis Serna on special teams.

Johnson, the team's most outstanding player and special teams player this year, will no doubt get priority status, but Serna was solid after a rough rookie season.

"I wouldn't want to play for any other team in the CFL," Serna said. "I love coach Kelly, I love Winnipeg. It's an awesome city."

- Minister of Defence -- Middle linebacker Barrin Simpson, who asked for a trade in August over a cut in playing time but ended up sticking around, evaded the issue yesterday when asked if he wanted to return.

When it was noted that his response didn't answer the question, Simpson stepped back and did a jig right there in the locker-room to show he was dancing around the issue.

Head coach Mike Kelly, however, said he wanted Simpson back and would exercise his option. The 32-year-old just wants to play somewhere.

"It's understood around the league that I can still play football. No doubt," Simpson said. "I missed five games and still ended up with 84 tackles, so everybody knows I still play football."

- Kickin' it -- Troy Westwood answered an SOS when Mike Renaud went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Westwood, 42, doesn't want his career to come to an end.

"I would like to come back, and I think I would be one of the top three punters in the league," he said. "... I was joking last night they'd have to cut me again. I'm not going to retire. It never ends nicely."

Kelly said he was going to exercise Westwood's option as well.

- Swan Song -- At least one player won't be back in 2010. Linebacker Neil McKinlay will become a North Vancouver, B.C., firefighter in January.

"That was the last go-round right there, unfortunately," McKinlay said after Sunday's loss. "It's a little bit different emotionally than every other end of the last five seasons."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

GOING FREE

The seven Bombers who are eligible to become CFL free agents in February 2010

- CB Jovon Johnson

- K Alexis Serna

- OL Ryan Donnelly

- WR Aaron Hargreaves

- CB James Johnson

- DE Pat MacDonald

- S Steven Holness


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