April 27, 2017

Stafford starts anew as Bombers Mini Camp continues

This from the something-you-don’t-see-every-day file…

There was Kenny Stafford after the first session of Winnipeg Blue Bombers mini-camp on Wednesday stepping in front of a group of media and eager to open the proceedings.

“How’s everybody doing? Everybody good? I’m Kenny,” began Stafford as the group broke into chuckles. “Nice to meet you guys.”

After the interview was over, about four minutes later, there was Stafford taking a moment to shake each reporter and camera person’s hand individually while introducing himself.

And it sounds like Stafford was using this mini-camp not only to ingratiate himself with the media, but to start putting some faces to names in the Bomber organization, from the coaches and quarterbacks to the training staff.

It’s all part of the veteran receiver trying to put down roots with the Bombers after being bounced by the Montreal Alouettes last October. Winnipeg will be his fourth CFL team after he broke into the league in 2013 with Calgary and did two tours with the Als wrapped around being a part of the 2015 Grey Cup champion Edmonton Eskimos.

Stafford outlined his take on what happened in Montreal earlier in the winter when he signed with Winnipeg and reiterated again on Wednesday how much he relishes this opportunity.

“It’s a new step. A blank page right now,” said Stafford. “I don’t have to really worry about what happened in the past… they gave me a brand new fresh start.

“Montreal happened. I addressed it with the media, I addressed it beforehand, I addressed it with (Blue Bombers GM) Kyle Walters. They also know what type of player I am.

“Once you actually sit down and meet with me and actually have a conversation with me, then you’ll know who I am. This is a fresh start, especially after what happened and (the Bombers) believing in me.”


Kenny Stafford (5) giving directions to his teammates in mini-camp.


First Take: “I thought it was good,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “From a coach’s standpoint it’s just great to have the players in the building and the guys are eager to work hard and compete to win a spot.

“This is an evaluation camp. We’re trying to figure out which of these guys comes to the next opportunity, that’s really what it is. There is some installation, some meeting time and some film time with these guys. And a little bit of playbook stuff. But that’s all part of the process of evaluating a player – how they learn, how they pay attention in meetings, are they able to make corrections very quickly and do they go home at night and make corrections, study their plays and come back with a little bit more than the day before.”

What a Rush: Diehard Bomber fans will remember John Rush from a year ago. What’s changed since his last tryout? The former star linebacker at Guelph – and the 2015 Presidents’ Trophy winner as the top defensive player in the CIS – is back, but as an offensive player lining up at fullback.

Now, it’s not like the Bombers are short-staffed at the fullback position – they line up the underrated Chris Normand and added Mike Miller in free agency – but Rush’s athleticism and football IQ has popped out before for the Bombers staff.

“John Rush is, to me, an extremely instinctive football player,” said O’Shea. “We had him in here last year and he played very well inside the box. He’s changed his body a little bit and become a little leaner, a little faster. It’s our job as coaches to put them in positions to be successful and we felt John Rush had a better opportunity to be successful and make our team in that spot.”

This and that: O’Shea indicated Kyle Knox would have the edge in the battle for the middle linebacker spot because of the experience he gained last year, but it will be a competitive battle.

“I think (experience) always helps,” he said. “You see guys come back in their second year and they can actually breathe instead of holding their breath the whole time.”