Bombers ready to move forward

Bombers defensive back Clinton Kent has his teeth checked by dentist Dr. Gene Solmundson Saturday....

Bombers defensive back Clinton Kent has his teeth checked by dentist Dr. Gene Solmundson Saturday. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

WINNIPEG — Bring up the 2009 season to a Winnipeg Blue Bomber veteran, and all you’re likely to get is a blank stare.

As in, it never happened.

That seemed to be the theme on Saturday as the Bomber veterans reported for physicals on the eve of main training camp, which opens Sunday morning at Canad Inns Stadium. The players who endured the roller-coaster ride that was the 2009 season are ready to move forward under new head coach Paul LaPolice and GM Joe Mack.

“More players are excited to be here, whereas last year we didn’t really know what to expect. And then the whole fiasco with the coaching staff,” cornerback and kick returner Jovon Johnson said Saturday after getting poked and prodded at Canad Inns Polo Park.

“That whole ordeal is over with, and with the message that the new coaches are sending, all the players are excited to play for them.”

“There were a lot of distractions, and hopefully we won’t have that this year,” added running back Fred Reid. “I believe we can do some good things by not having those distractions.”

LaPolice gathered the 73 hopefuls at the first mandatory team meeting late Saturday afternoon. He indicated prior to the get-together that the club’s 80-year history was going to be prominent in his address.

“I’m going to tell them about who we’re named after and why, and go into that a little bit,” said LaPolice, the former Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive co-ordinator who was hired in February to replace the fired Mike Kelly. “We’re named after Joe Louis, as some people know, so we’ll educate them about who Joe Louis was and what he did and what made him great. And it’ll relate to us in some ways.”

In the mid-1930s Winnipeg Tribune sports writer Vince Leah used a variation of the heavyweight champ’s nickname, the Brown Bomber, to describe the impressive Winnipegs, as the team was known at the time. The nickname stuck.

LaPolice said he didn’t know how the Bombers got their name when he was the team’s offensive co-ordinator in 2002 and 2003. Now that he does, the rookie head coach was planning to use it to his advantage in his first meeting with his players.

“I really think it’s a neat story, and he was a tremendous boxer. He could knock people out,” LaPolice said. “So we’ve got some things to show the guys … things we could emulate that he did.”

The Bombers will have a new leader at quarterback this season, with former B.C. Lion Buck Pierce expected to snatch the starting gig thanks to his CFL experience of more than 30 career starts.

Eighteen starters at the other 23 positions are back from last year’s squad that finished with a 7-11 record and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years.

One important starting spot up for grabs on the defensive side of the ball is at middle linebacker following the off-season release of Barrin Simpson. Joe Lobendahn, who started a handful of games in Simpson’s place during his first two seasons with the Bombers, is planning on taking over for his good friend.

“I trained this past off-season with the mindset of coming in as a starter,” Lobendahn said, “so I will not settle for anything less.”

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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