Speed key asset of Bombers’ hopeful

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:49 PM ET

Kenny Strickland does a lot of things quickly.

Running. Talking. Doing interviews.

As the Bomber hopeful was doing a post-practice interview at the conclusion of the three-day rookie camp on Friday, head coach Paul LaPolice strolled over to the 23-year-old receiver and asked, “Aren’t you a specialist?”

Strickland answered that yes, yes he was. He was going to head over and catch long balls out of the JUGS machine as soon as the interview was over. LaPolice politely informed the rookie out of North Carolina’s Johnson C. Smith University that he do his football work first and interviews second.

So Strickland scooted off to work on his return game.

Earnest is the perfect word to describe the 5-foot-10, 185-pound California native. LaPolice was poking fun at Strickland’s school on Wednesday night, pretending to not know its name. Strickland told the coach that he’ll know it soon enough.

LaPolice loves the enthusiasm Strickland brings to the football field.

“He’s a great kid. He’s a hardworking kid and wants to get better, so I really enjoy him,” LaPolice said. “For a small college kid he’s been impressive.”

Strickland made his mark with speed during the rookie camp, and loves the fact he gets a running start on routes.

“It helps out a lot, especially if you’ve got speed,” said Strickland, who gave himself a B+ as his rookie camp grade. “The league is pretty much about speed. It’s exciting. It’s real exciting. I feel I have an advantage already.”

MAKIN’ MOVES: The veterans will report for physicals on Saturday at Canad Inns Polo Park hotel, and two-a-days begin bright and early on Sunday morning.

The Bombers need to make three cuts before 10:59 p.m. on Saturday to get down to the 68 players CFL teams are allowed to have in camp. LaPolice said those cuts will be announced on Saturday morning.

Winnipeg made three moves on Friday, releasing receiver D.J. Hall, and signing kick returner Willie Foster and defensive tackle Moton Hopkins.

If Foster’s name sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Rutgers product signed with the Blue and Gold in September 2007 and appeared in one game before being cut at the end of the 2008 training camp.

Foster was brought in because fellow kick returner Travis Shelton is unable to practise due to a hamstring injury and LaPolice wants some insurance.

Hopkins played at Tulsa and was a two-time second-team Conference USA all-star.

Hall, meanwhile, was let go after suffering a hamstring injury. He played at Alabama and was a big target at 6-foot-3, but you can’t be an injured CFL rookie at this time of year.

“We just gotta have guys who can practise and play,” LaPolice said.

They’re not giving up on Shelton, however.

“Not yet,” he said. “He’s a dynamic returner.”

LATE HITS: LaPolice liked what he saw from receiver Cory Watson, the team’s first pick in last month’s draft, during the three-day rookie camp. “I really felt that he was one of the better players out of the rookies,” he said … Even though he’s nervous about it, LaPolice said cornerback Jovon Johnson, the team’s most outstanding player in 2009, will get a chance to be the team’s kick returner again this season. “If he’s the best,” LaPolice said.


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