Fritz enjoying the ride

Blue Bombers defensive lineman Rodney Fritz has played so well that defensive tackle Dorion Smith...

Blue Bombers defensive lineman Rodney Fritz has played so well that defensive tackle Dorion Smith cannot get back into the lineup after recovering from an ankle injury. (CHRIS PROCAYLO/QMI Agency)

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:49 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Not only is he still learning a different game in a strange land but one of the first new teammates he met in Winnipeg was Odell Willis.

Willis, as many Blue Bombers fans already know, is, um, out there.

"He definitely makes me laugh," import defensive lineman Rodney Fritz said after Willis entertained with his antics on the sidelines during Wednesday's practice. "He's a character."

But Fritz has also made an immediate impression after arriving here in August. The 6-foot-1, 260-pound Tennessee State product had been playing for the Huntington Hammer of the Ultimate Indoor Football League after being passed over in the 2010 NFL draft.

Yet, Fritz recorded two defensive tackles and one quarterback sack during the loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Banjo Bowl, and another defensive and one special teams tackle while rotating in on the defensive line during the win over the Alouettes in Montreal on Sunday.

In fact, Fritz has played so well that defensive tackle Dorion Smith cannot get back into the lineup after recovering from an ankle injury.

"Rodney Fritz is more of a defensive-end type who can play inside and play on special teams whereas Dorion is more of an inside guy," said Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice. "He had a great hit on special teams (Sunday) and everything we've given him, he's performed well."

Fritz, 24, is still trying to get accustomed to both his new surroundings and the Canadian game.

"I didn't know, I was just hoping that it was still just, like, football," said the Kansas City, MO., native. "But man, when I got out here, I kind of got hit by reality seeing how things ran and the way things were going. So, I had to get caught up to speed, definitely.

"Definitely the field, then this is a windy area, getting used to the wind. But the field is a lot different. It is a lot bigger than the 50 yards on the arena field. You need everything, you need power, you need strength, you need the cardiovascular in order to succeed in this game."

But Fritz feels like he is adjusting well thus far.

"Coach gave me a job to do and I'm just trying to enjoy the ride and do my job," he said, adding his size is more suited to the Canuck game than the NFL.

"I guess I'm a little shorter than most tackles so they (opposing linemen) have to come down to me," said Fritz, who had passed on an invitation to come to come to Winnipeg's training camp. "There was a guy (Bombers' chief scout Ken Moll) who was recruiting me who liked the way I played and wanted me to come up here, but unfortunately, it didn't work out at the time.

"They ended up calling me again and it ended up working out for the good."


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