Blue Bombers running back Chris Garrett is all in even if he's odd man out

Chris Garrett is hungry to see action again and he should in Thursday's exhibition game. But after...

Chris Garrett is hungry to see action again and he should in Thursday's exhibition game. But after that, who knows what will happen with a plethora of good, healthy running backs in camp

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:14 PM ET

The inaugural Camp Burke ended, Tuesday, with 27 players breathing a little easier.

That’s how many have been told they’ve made the team, Blue Bomber head man Tim Burke said.

Some are starters, some aren’t.

The rest will scratch and claw for paycheques one last time against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Guelph, Ont., Thursday.

Scanning the list of rookies and backups making the trip, one name jumps out: running back Chris Garrett, the only one of the Big Three suiting up for the second pre-season game.

What do we read into that?

That Chad Simpson and Will Ford are probably sure things.

And that the pile driver who rolled up 190 yards along the ground in the 2011 East Final against these same Ticats still has some work to do.

It’s come to this for Garrett: a pre-season game loaded with no-names to prove he can still be the big name he was before he tore his Achilles tendon and missed all of 2012.

“I don’t think he’s running as well as he was two years ago,” Burke acknowledged. “But it’s nothing physical. He’s just got to get back in the groove.

“We just want to get him more reps. Get a feel for exactly where he is. He didn’t get enough carries in the last game for us to determine if he’s all the way back. Plus running backs just get better the more you use them.”

Garrett, 26, doesn’t argue with that. He’s as hungry for the ball as anyone.

After barely seeing it last week, he’s ready to slice it up and butter it in Guelph.

“I look at it like we’re playing Game 1,” Garrett said. “I don’t look at it like it’s a pre-season game.”

He can’t.

Simpson and Ford will have their feet up back in Winnipeg. He’s playing for a roster spot next week.

But ask him about the turn of events that has him on the outside, looking in, and he defaults to the mantra the coaches preached as camp kicked off.

“I’m competing against myself and the other guys are competing against themselves,” Garrett said. “I can’t control that. If that’s the case, hey, that’s the coach’s decision. I don’t make ’em, I just go out there and play.”

It wasn’t long ago Burke first raised the possibility of dressing Ford and just one of either Garrett or Simpson, since both are inside power runners to Ford’s outside speed game.

Asked Tuesday if Garrett is in tough to regain his starting job, Burke simply said, “He’s got a chance.”

Watching camp, you’d have to say No. 19 looks like the No. 3 back.

“Whatever Coach Burke says, I just go by it,” Garrett said. “I’m a team player, first and foremost. And I want to get back to the Grey Cup. If he feels that’s the best way for us getting back to the Cup, I’m all for it. It’s a long season. Things happen. I’m just all in.”

I half expected a bold statement from No. 19, a vow that we haven’t seen the last of him.

When Garrett replaced Fred Reid late in that 2011 season and began going on a tear, I always sensed an inner bravado, a love of the spotlight.

His low-key response to this challenge is admirable, if a tad surprising.

“Everyone has pride,” Garrett said. “But sometimes you’ve got to put your pride aside for the bigger purpose. And that’s the team. I’m playing professional football. Not a lot of people get the chance to play.”

With that, he began to walk away.

“Make me look good,” he said.

He’ll have to do that on his own, Thursday.

Or it may be a while before he gets another chance.


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