WINNIPEG — With injuries already becoming an issue for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, coach Mike O’Shea had his players doing a little yoga last Wednesday to stretch their muscles at the end of practice.
“It does concern me because I’m responsible for player safety too,” he said.
“It’s a response to what I noticed. There weren’t enough guys stretching after practice. If they’re not taking it upon themselves to do the right thing then I’m going to coach them to do the right thing.”
Cory Watson just returned to the field last week after a hamstring injury he suffered on opening day of training camp this season.
“It’s football,” said the team’s top Canadian receiver. “Injuries are going to happen in any sport so you’ve got to be prepared for those things and be patient and hopefully things work out.”
O’Shea had nothing but praise for the way Watson plays football but says he may at some point discuss what he does in the off-season and other things that might help with injuries.
“I can’t tell you what he did all off-season and what he does (for conditioning) during the season i just know one thing. He plays football the way it should be played and with that there are ramifications.”
The coach got linebacker Ian Wild to lead the stretch since he does the same thing anyway every day after practice, but O’Shea says there is only so much players can do in the off-season.
“It’s virtually impossible to be in game shape come training camp,” he said. “The only way to get in game shape is to play those games.”
He says the intense physical contact can’t be simulated during the off-season. Many might argue it wouldn’t be a great idea even if it could, since that’s where injuries happen.
Watson, 30, a native of Dollard des Ormeaux, Que, has missed a lot of games in his four previous seasons with the Bombers yet shines as their best Canadian receiver when he’s on the field. He appeared in just 11 games in 2013 but still caught 36 passes for 516 yards and ranked third on the team’s receiver’s list.
His best year was his second with the team. In 2011 he caught 69 passes for 793 yards and he says he thinks he can beat that. In his 45 starts over four seasons he has four times exceeded the 100-yard mark.
“I think I can do better than what I did in my second year,” he suggests.
“This year I have a role that demands a lot so I have to make sure I’m in there, that’s the most important thing. I have to make those plays happen.”
Watson is also a force on special teams and says that’s a role he loves as well.
He hasn’t had much time to work out with the team’s four quarterbacks so far but says he has studied lots of film and will be able to get his timing down.
“The most important thing for me right now is trying to get my conditioning in,” he said as the Bombers prepare to open the regular season at home Thursday when they host he Toronto Argonauts.
“That’s the focus right now. Timing is going to come.”