VANCOUVER — The Bombers will be without two of their offensive starters when they open the season on Saturday night in B.C., as receiver Chris Matthews and offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld have been added to the one-game injured list.
Neufeld was the team’s projected starter at left guard and will be replaced by Cody Speller, while explosive returner Lucky Whitehead draws into the lineup at slotback in place of Matthews. This year’s first round draft pick, Drew Desjarlais, will back up Speller at guard.
Matthews was one of the Bombers’ big-ticket off-season acquisitions over the winter, returning to the city where he won Most Outstanding Rookie back in 2012 with 81 catches and nearly 1,200 receiving yards. The 29-year-old signed a three-year deal with the Bombers after stints in the NFL and, last fall, the Grey Cup Champion Calgary Stampeders.
While Bombers fans must wait for Matthews’ anticipated 2019 debut, there’s no shortage of excitement around Whitehead. The 27-year-old, who spent time with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, competed with Charles Nelson throughout training camp for the primary return job. Now, Whitehead will get the opportunity to make plays on the offensive side of the ball, along with another first-time starter in Kenny Lawler.
With Whitehead getting the chance on offence, Nelson will assume both punt and kick return duties in the season-opener.
Whitehead, a 5-foot-10, 177-pound Florida Atlantic graduate, has speed to burn, having reportedly once run a 4.29 in the 40-yard dash while working out for NFL teams. He certainly showed it in the pre-season, when he caught a short Matt Nichols pass and raced 86 yards for a touchdown vs. the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Bombers, considered one of the top favourites to win the Grey Cup in 2019, will open their season against Mike Reilly and the new-look BC Lions on Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET in Vancouver.