You could tell he was already feeling the effects of losing his best defender.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost all-star defensive end Phillip Hunt to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles on Friday.
“I have mixed emotions,” Bombers GM Joe Mack responded Friday. “I hate to lose him but I wish both him and his family all the best.
“He’s a great talent, a hard worker and maybe as valuable as any defensive player in the league last year — and a real gentleman.”
The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Houston native led the CFL with 16 quarterback sacks last season and had the window to join an NFL team because he was heading into his option year. He reportedly signed a lucrative three-year contract with the Eagles.
“It was his dream to play down there but I’m disappointed for both the football club and our fans,” said Mack, who is no fan of that NFL window.
Hunt did not return numerous messages left by The Sun on Friday.
“Good defensive ends are really hard to find,” Mack said. “And I’m really glad we got (defensive end) Odell Willis signed. But Phillip had unique skills and (Bomber director of player personnel) Ken Moll and I will be working hard to find another young one.”
Mack also basically ruled out acquiring a proven defensive end from another CFL team.
“I doubt if anyone would be willing to trade anyone of any quality to us,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Roughriders confirmed that they inked Canadian offensive tackle Alexandre Gauthier to a deal.
“It’s disappointing, sure,” admitted Mack, who made an offer to the ex-Bomber. “We had a real interest in him. But it’s not just the player and the position you consider but how the costs impact the salary cap and the other guys on the team. And we want to nurture the players we have here.”
However, talks continue with defensive back Jonathan Hefney and centre Obby Khan — who are about to become free agents next week.
“We have had some very fruitful talks (with Hefney) and I think we’re close,” Mack said. “The same with Obby.”
The Bombers, meanwhile, did sign two players who were about to become free agents, namely import defensive tackle Dorian Smith and non-import fullback Jon Oosterhuis.
The 6-foot-3, 267-pound Smith has recorded 78 defensive tackles, 14 sacks and two fumble recoveries in his two years with Winnipeg. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Oosterhuis has been used mainly as an effective blocking back.
The Bombers also announced the signing of import offensive lineman Marlon Winn and import running back Alex Henderson. Winn is a 6-foot-6, 325-pound Texas Tech product while Henderson is a 5-foot-10, 200-pound Northern Arizona product who ranks second in rushing in school history.