A rookie all over again

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:49 PM ET

Luke Fritz started 60 games on the offensive line for the most dominant team of the 2000s, playing in five Grey Cups and winning one of them for the Montreal Alouettes.

No one on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp roster has played more post-season or Grey Cup games than him.

This month, however, Fritz is like a rookie all over again, trying to prove himself to a new coaching staff. He even spoke like a first-year player on Wednesday when asked if he thinks he has a shot at a starting spot.

“I would think so,” said Fritz, a second-year Bomber. “I hope they give me a shot. I know I can do it.”

Fritz, who spent almost all of the 2009 season as a backup, came to camp with a new haircut (the long locks are gone), a new body (he put on muscle in the off-season instead of losing weight) and a readiness to do whatever was asked of him.

On Wednesday, under the hot sun, Fritz was playing both right tackle and centre, the latter being something new for the 31-year-old from Osoyoos, B.C.

“That’s like going from defensive line to free safety,” Fritz said. “… It’s fun. It’s a challenge. Going into my ninth year, I’m always looking for some kind of challenge.”

Showing he can play centre is one thing, but there’s an even bigger task on Fritz’s plate right now. Thanks to the ratio, which dictates each CFL team must start seven Canadians, Fritz is basically in a dog fight with a receiver for a starting spot.

Fritz, who weighed in at a lean 296 pounds this season, needs to prove that he is a more valuable Canadian at right tackle than someone like Cory Watson, Aaron Hargreaves or Jabari Arthur is as a second Canadian receiver.

The right tackle spot is wide open due to Glenn January’s torn pectoral muscle, although import Andre Douglas was lining up at the position with the first-team offence on Wednesday. The coaching staff will soon have to determine if it wants to go Canadian or American at right tackle, but Fritz has a suggestion.

“I feel that I am at least one of the top five offensive linemen in this camp,” he said. “Maybe they’re sitting back and they’re just getting some of these young guys some reps to see how they adapt to it and if they can stay here. I’m an old dog. They know what I can do.”

Head coach Paul LaPolice, who said in the off-season that he was intrigued with Fritz because of his history and success in the CFL, acknowledged Wednesday that his chances of starting are better because of January’s injury.

Now all Fritz has to do is prove that he still has it.

“I feel strong, I feel mobile, I feel good,” said Fritz, who played mostly right tackle in Montreal. “So I’m just hoping I get a chance. I don’t put labels on people, whether it be Canadian or American, and I hope the coaches aren’t doing it either.

“I have it in my head that they’re gonna put the best players in the best situations, and I feel that I’m one of those players.”

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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