WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will go into the 2011 season with many of the same starters who guided them to a 4-14 record in 2010.
The Bombers cut eight players to get down to their mandated 46-man roster on Saturday afternoon, and they didn’t make any surprising moves to get there. The highest-ranking Bomber to get his walking papers was defensive tackle Moton Hopkins, who started three games as a rookie last season.
Head coach Paul LaPolice wouldn’t reveal the outcomes of all position battles on Saturday, but approximately 20 of the 24 starting spots on offence and defence will be occupied by incumbents.
“We feel we’re a faster team than we were last year, we’re going to be a more physical team, and we’re going to be a little bit more aggressive defensively than we were last year,” LaPolice said. “Offensively I expect us to be able to run the ball and push the ball down field with some talented players.”
Saturday’s transactions were more about who stayed than who departed. Rookie receiver Jade Etienne, who struggled through much of camp, cracked the 46-man roster, as did impressive rookie receiver-returner Perry Floyd. Jason Vega, meanwhile, was the last defensive end standing in the race to replace the departed Phillip Hunt.
“He’s played well, so we’re going to give him a chance to play a little bit at one of the jack (defensive end) spots,” LaPolice said. “He’s a good football player. He’s got good intangibles.”
As expected, fifth-round draft pick Carl Volny will serve as running back Fred Reid’s backup. The Bombers will primarily use only one American backup on offence, and that job will fall to Floyd for now. Volny, who is receiver Kito Poblah’s cousin, impressed LaPolice from the start of camp.
“He’s a guy who understands our protections in and out, a guy who has good balance with the ball in his hands as a running back,” LaPolice said. “He puts us in a position to have a guy on the roster to spill Fred, and we’ll expect him to have a great role on special teams.”
The others let go on Saturday were running backs Alex Henderson and Chris Garrett, safety Chris Smith, quarterback Justin Goltz, linebacker John Surla, offensive lineman Brendan Dunn and defensive end Remond Willis.
The seven-man practice roster will come from the 20 players the Bombers released on Friday and Saturday. Surla and Dunn are definitely on it, while Henderson and defensive tackle Bryant Turner, who was released on Friday, are expected to be as well. LaPolice made it sound like Goltz might stick around, too.
Defensive back Johnny Sears, who was a special teams monster in Thursday’s preseason loss to Toronto, was placed on the nine-game injured list with a high ankle sprain, as was rookie offensive lineman Paul Swiston, whose injury wasn’t specified.
Linebacker Henoc Muamba, the first overall pick in this year’s draft, has been put on the one-game injured list with a knee injury, which means he can’t play in Friday’s season-opener in Hamilton.
Strong-side linebacker Clint Kent (ankle) and defensive end Deji Oduwole were also put on the one-game injured list.
Bombers’ roster moves Saturday to get down to 46
* DT Moton Hopkins
* RB Alex Henderson (PR)
* RB Chris Garrett
* S Chris Smith
* OL Brendan Dunn (PR)
* DE Remond Willis
* QB Justin Goltz
* LB John Surla (PR)
(PR — practice roster)
* LB Clint Kent
* DE Deji Oduwole
* LB Henoc Muamba
* DB Johnny Sears
* OL Paul Swiston