- Free Agency
There were a lot of compelling storylines in the Bombers’ 37-11 win over Hamilton in Week 7 but, arguably, none of them as juicy as the return of Clarence Denmark.
Cast adrift in the spring after the Bombers splurged in free agency to add Weston Dressler and Ryan Smith, and cut in Saskatchewan after the Roughriders’ training camp, Denmark returned last week after the club put in an emergency call when their receiving corps was ravaged by injury.
Denmark was cheered loudly by the faithful in the warm-up when the starting lineup was introduced, and then heard what was left of the crowd at full throat when he pulled in a pass from Nichols early in the first quarter to give the Bombers a 14-zip lead.
By the end of the night, a man who had one full practice with his old team – but also a brand-new playbook – had pulled in seven catches for 69 yards and the score.
Asked afterwards if he could have scripted this any better, Denmark grinned.
“Nah, man. With this win and how this whole team played, it’s just awesome. Just to be able to be a part of it is just awesome. It’s unreal. I’m just taking it all in. Just to be out there on the field again in front of these fans and with these teammates is awesome.
“That’s the loudest I’ve heard them, when they called my name. It felt great. Everybody welcomed me back in and that’s such a good feeling.”
You get the feeling a whole lot of people were pulling for Denmark, too. The decision to release him was based largely on finances, but there was little hesitation in bringing him back because the club knew what it was getting: a tremendously dedicated athlete who would swallow this second opportunity whole.
“I’m so happy for him,” said O’Shea afterwards. “It’s a crappy business. So for him to come out and have the game he did… he scored, he took some of those screen passes, found lanes and drove up the field grinding for yards. He took a couple of hits and just kept on going.
“I loved seeing him when he was smiling. He was happy, he was excited and I’m very happy for him.”
Upon Further Review
Excuse the well-worn pun, but Thomas Mayo continues to cut the mustard for the Bombers when he is in the offence.
Pressed into duty again for the club due to injuries – he’s bounced to and from the practice roster – Mayo finished the night with seven catches for 84 yards and his first career CFL touchdown.
Bruce Johnson and Maurice Leggett keep busy during the 2.5-hour delay before kickoff (BlueBombers.com)
“At the start of the week Coach O’Shea came up to me and said I needed to step up,” said Mayo. “(The TD) felt great. I wish I had kept my ball, but I threw it into the stadium. It’s definitely a confidence booster.
“Whatever coach needs me to do or asks me to do, I’m going to do it. I wish I could have had 200 yards, but 84 is pretty cool.
“We’ve all got to believe in each other. At the beginning of the season there were a lot of new guys around, including me. A lot of guys were getting injured but now we’re believing how good we are. Now it’s like everything is gelling together and we believe.”
There’s been a lot of commentary lately about the quality of the Bombers’ depth, given the men who have stepped up in the secondary and receiving corps with all the injuries to regulars.
It’s going to make for some interesting decisions when they start to get healthy again – “a good problem” is how O’Shea described it. One of those newcomers who has also blossomed is cornerback C.J. Roberts who, with four starts under his belt now, has the third most experience in the secondary in terms of CFL starts after Bruce Johnson (38 starts), Kevin Fogg (7), Terrence Frederick and Taylor Loffler (2).
Roberts stepped in front of a Masoli pass and returned it 19 yards to open the scoring Wednesday/Thursday and – save for being beaten by Edmonton’s Derel Walker a couple of weeks ago – has been very solid.
“When I stepped in front for that pass, man, it feels like the gate is opening for you,” said Roberts. “But you’ve got to make sure you catch it first. After that… what a feeling.
“We’ve got a lot of rookies in our secondary, but we also have a lot of faith, too. It’s just the way this game goes sometimes.”