When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers didn’t make many changes after their run to the Grey Cup game in 2007, not many batted an eye.
The complacency that enveloped the club in 2008, however, led to an 8-10 season, the firing of Doug Berry and the ill-fated hiring of Mike Kelly.
So after the young team went 4-14 in 2010, you’d expect the roster to be blown to smithereens and smothered with veteran talent. Instead, GM Joe Mack kept the core intact and went even younger.
The 2011 version of the Bombers will kick off main training camp Sunday at 9:30 a.m. at Canad Inns Stadium.
The Blue and Gold said goodbye to several older players in the off-season, including Shawn Gallant, Luke Fritz, Ryan Donnelly, Brock Ralph, Keyuo Craver, LaVar Glover, Markus Howell and Jon Oosterhuis, who failed his physical on Saturday.
Of the 27 players added to the training camp roster in the off-season, all but three are 25 or younger.
Only Mayne, receiver David McKoy (27) and kicker Rene Paredes (26) have eclipsed a quarter century.
In addition, Mayne and McKoy are the only two newcomers who have appeared in a CFL game before.
That shows the trust Mack and the Bomber brass have in the group they assembled in 2010 — even if it was the worst outfit in the eight-team league.
“We will still be one of the younger teams in the CFL, but part of our thing is there’s a lot of talent in this crew and we want to let them start playing together and start to learn,” head coach Paul LaPolice said.
“And when talent gets an opportunity to make plays, we think they’re going to be able to make plays.”
The elder statesman on the team, 36-year-old all-star defensive tackle Doug Brown, was supposed to retire after last season.
He came back for an 11th and final campaign because he likes what he sees in the locker-room.
“That’s what most exciting, is just that we had that base, that nucleus of real talented young players,” Brown said. “And now you just hope to see the displays of that growth and maturity on the football field.”
The Bombers lost nine games last season by four points or fewer, and veteran slotback Terrence Edwards, one of only five Bombers in his 30s, believes a year of experience for many of the young players will reverse those outcomes in 2011.
“We’re a year older,” he said, “and the core guys here will understand what it takes to win close games.”