SURREY, B.C – Traded tailback Charles Roberts says he’s not the only one to blame for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ poor start after last season’s Grey Cup appearance.
Roberts’ lack of production was criticized by Bomber coach Doug Berry after trading him Tuesday to the B.C. Lions for Joe Smith in a swap of CFL running backs.
“Definitely there’s more wrong with the team than the running game and I’m not going to be the only scapegoat, it’s going to be some other guys,” Roberts said Wednesday after arriving at the B.C. Lions’ suburban practice facility.
“I wasn’t the first scapegoat,” he added. “Kevin Glenn was. They benched him for two weeks, three weeks, whatever they did… Really, I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m here. I’m a B.C. Lion now.”
Glenn, the starting quarterback for the 2-7 club, briefly lost his job to Ryan Dinwiddie earlier this season.
Berry criticized Roberts, who’s on the cover of the Bombers media guide, after the running back had only 517 rushing yards by the halfway point of the season.
Smith, who hadn’t played since July 31 and has 236 rushing yards and a 4.3 average, led the CFL with 1,510 rushing yards last season and also set a club record with 18 rushing touchdowns.
Roberts, who missed the final two games of last season because of injury, finished second to Smith with 1,379 yards. He’s had six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and is 13 yards short of 10,000 for his eight-year career.
He said Wednesday that he didn’t understand Berry’s comments about a lack of production.
“I just talked to him the week before and he said I played a great game,” said Roberts, who hadn’t practised with the Lions and likely won’t play Saturday in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats. “I really don’t understand those comments. It really doesn’t bother me. He knows I can play.
“I really wasn’t getting the carries that I had gotten consistently (in the past). It looks like I had a lot of carries, but it wasn’t consistent thing throughout the game.
“They were looking to do some different things around there. It’s football, it’s a business and I’m happy to be here.”
Roberts, a five-foot-six, 177-pound scatback out of Sacramento State, is similar in size and has a jitterbug running style like incumbent B.C. tailback Stefan Logan.
The rookie is averaging 7.1 yards a carry while Roberts, who has four rushing touchdowns, is averaging 4.7 yards.
B.C. coach Wally Buono said the coaching staff will start planning Roberts’s role after the Hamilton game. Logan was non-committal about the prospect of sharing the backfield.
“There’s always room for good players,” said Logan who was practising punt returns Wednesday in addition to his running back reps. “He’s going to come in and they’ll see how he does, how they like him.
“As long as I keep doing what I’m doing and be productive, I’m not going to worry about it.”
Buono said he expects Roberts to make an impact with the 4-5 Lions who are struggling to be a playoff team after leading the CFL with a 14-3-1 record last season.
“He’s been able to put fear into defences, he’s been able to make big plays,” Buono said. “When you can add another weapon of that nature to the team, you’re hoping he’ll be improving it.”
One sticking point about the arrival of Roberts is whether he’ll keep the No. 1 on his sweater.
He said he’d feel awkward not wearing it but it’s currently the property of receiver Kahlil Hill, who said he’s attached to the numeral.
“It’s a good feeling,” Hill said of the digit. “If anything, quarterbacks see that (No. 1) out there and it’s a good-looking target.”
But he’ll relent if push comes to shove.
“Roberts is a great player,” Hill said. “We just want to keep him happy. If he feels comfortable in it, he can have it.”