Rave reviews for rookie Etienne

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

WINNIPEG - The evolution of Jade Etienne, professional football player, took a step forward on Thursday.

Winnipeg’s fourth overall selection in this year’s draft had one catch for 10 yards in his first pro game, a 27-15 exhibition loss to Montreal, and also had a chance to make a touchdown grab that resulted in a pass interference penalty.

“It was good,” Etienne said. “I was a little shaky at first, but I settled down in the third quarter and felt really good, actually.”

The 21-year-old receiver was actually surprised in a positive way on Thursday night.

“I felt faster than some of the DBs on some routes,” he said. “I ran right by some of them. That was a little bit surprising.”

If nothing else, Thursday’s game will give the University of Saskatchewan product more confidence as he aims to grab a roster spot. There’s still a chance, however, the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder could go back to school for another year of seasoning.

Head coach Paul LaPolice believes he’d develop better in Winnipeg but didn’t close the door on Etienne going back to the Huskies.

“We haven’t crossed that bridge yet,” LaPolice said. “We’ll keep seeing how our numbers are.”

The coach liked what he saw from Etienne even when he didn’t have the ball thrown his way, noting the routes he ran, specifically on a couple of hitches, were superb.

“He jumped out of that cut on two consecutive plays,” LaPolice said. “I kind of stopped the (tape) and I said ‘Jade?’ He said, ‘Yes coach?’ I said, ‘That’s why we drafted you.’

“He looked as fast out of his cuts in the draft, a kid who could change direction very well. He’s getting better every day, and he’s big, and he’s fast.”

MAKING MOVES: The Bombers made their biggest training camp purge so far on Saturday, releasing five players.

Defensive linemen Dashawn Cassell and Andre Caroll, receiver Greg Betterson, safety Giancarlo Rapanaro and defensive back Andre Jones were let go.

All were long shots to make the final roster, and their departures leave 71 players in Winnipeg’s camp. The team must get down to a 46-man roster and seven-player practice squad by next Saturday.

SICK BAY UPDATE: LaPolice said rookie linebacker Henoc Muamba is day-to-day with a knee strain, which means there’s a chance he could play in Thursday’s pre-season finale against Toronto.

Long snapper Chris Cvetkovic (calf) will be out at least a week but is expected to be ready for the season-opener on July 1 in Hamilton.

Also not practising on Saturday were fullback Scott McHenry (neck), receiver Aaron Hargreaves (ankle) and offensive lineman Glenn January (groin). LaPolice said January, who is in a battle with Kelly Butler for the starting right tackle spot, will play on Thursday.


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