Close Bombers' kickoff-return revolving door

‘I bring speed, quickness ... and just being a professional,’ says Bombers kickoff return hopeful...

‘I bring speed, quickness ... and just being a professional,’ says Bombers kickoff return hopeful Garrett.

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:22 AM ET

WINNIPEG - There have been 25 kickoffs returned for touchdowns in the last 10 CFL seasons.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have contributed a grand total of one to that figure. Keith Stokes. September 2004. That’s it.

And don’t forget the Bombers have been kicked off to quite a bit in the last 10 years. That’s what happens when you get scored on a lot.

The problem for the Bombers has been their inability to find a true kickoff return man. Stokes had all the tools, but his penchant for fumbling the football got him a ticket out of town.

Last season it was, as special teams coach Kyle Walters put it Wednesday, a “revolving door.” No fewer than 13 players returned kicks for the Bombers in 2010, although Don Oramasionwu and Jon Oosterhuis don’t really count.

“The problem with constantly switching guys is (not) having continuity between the returner and the wedge guys and all that sort of stuff,” Walters said.

The Bombers have one of the CFL’s best punt returners in Jovon Johnson, but cornerback Deon Beasley, who took back a team-leading 31 kickoffs for the Bombers last year, ranked dead last in yardage among the 15 busiest CFL return men.

One man looking to assume the kickoff return role — or perhaps even both — is shifty running back Chris Garrett. The 24-year-old joined the Bombers last September and would love to take on a bigger role in 2011. The former Ohio University star also knows it’s been a while since an elite kickoff return man wore Blue and Gold.

“I’m aware of that, yeah,” said Garrett, who would also need to fill the role of backup running back to get on the 42-man roster. “If I’m given the opportunity I feel that I can be that guy. Seriously.

“I don’t want to compare myself to anybody else, but I bring speed, quickness — all that — and just being a professional.”

There are once again a gaggle of returners in training camp, all with speed to burn. Whether they can actually catch the football, run with it and avoid tackles is another matter. Remember Travis Shelton? Didn’t think so. Ramonce Taylor? Exactly.

Nothing any of the returners do in practice will lead the brass to make a decision, as the pre-season games will make all the difference. And if no one can do it, well, they’ll always have Johnson.

“We just want to see who we trust to catch the ball, first and foremost,” Walters said. “Who’s going to score touchdowns after they catch it is next.

“We know what Jovon can do, and it’s a real nice safety net to have him, knowing he’s in our back pocket.”

Camping out

Day 4

Three stars of the day

SB Terence Jeffers-Harris was a catching machine, DB Johnny Sears broke up passes left and right, and OL Brendon LaBatte looks comfortable at centre in place of the injured Obby Khan.

Catch of the day

RB Fred Reid made a leaping, over-the-shoulder grab while running to his right along the line of scrimmage.

Quote of the day

“Then he was in camp two years in a row trying to take my job, so I stopped working with him.”

— long snapper Chris Cvetkovic, who coached Jordan Matechuk when he was with the Winnipeg Rifles

Tweet of the day

“Eat, meetings, practice, practice, eat, sleep, meetings, eat, meetings, sleep.”

— Rookie linebacker John Surla sums up camp

Tweet carefully

The Tiger-Cats cut running back Conte Cuttino because he posted a photo of a teammate’s injury on Twitter. Paul LaPolice read the riot act to his team on Saturday. “What happens in our house is in our house and our business,” LaPolice said.

Late hits

LaPolice brought in a handful of CFL officials on Wednesday to go over a few new rules and give a refresher course to the players … Doug Brown was back on the practice field Wednesday. Still out with injuries were Aaron Hargreaves, Obby Khan, Greg Betterson, Deon Beasley and Jonathan Hefney.

Up next

The Bombers will practise twice on Thursday at Canad Inns Stadium, starting at 8:30 a.m.


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