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September 3, 2020

Hansen hopes to sharpen skills in Poland

Jason Halstead/CFL.ca

Thiadric Hansen wished it was otherwise. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end – and the best Global player in the Canadian Football League – was supposed to be on the field this week against the Ottawa RedBlacks.

Instead, Hansen was one of a handful of players granted his release by the Bombers this week so he could play elsewhere following the cancellation of the 2020 season.

And for Hansen, that ‘elsewhere’ is in Poland with the Wroclaw Panthers of the Liga Futbolu Amerykańskiego.

“I’m fine. Right now I’m in the kitchen cooking some stuff, so I couldn’t be better,” began Hansen with a chuckle during a telephone conversation with bluebombers.com.

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Hansen participated at the CFL’s National Combine in 2019 (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

Then, correcting himself, he added:

“Well, I should say I am really missing the CFL. But I can play here now, there’s a good environment to train and I’m here with Sven Breidenbach, the offensive lineman from Cologne (who was to have headed to the CFL combine before the pandemic), so we can train with each other and make each other better.

“We had our first practice (Wednesday) and it was great. It was just good to be out there again because we haven’t played for so long.”

Hansen is one of nine Bombers who sought his release following the cancellation of the CFL season and one of two veterans, along with receiver Kenny Lawler.

The other seven who opted out are all CFL newcomers in receivers Travin Dural, Deontez Alexander and Malcolm Lewis, defensive backs Isaiah Johnson, Makinton Dorleant and Ranthony Texada and defensive end David Kenney.

Both Hansen and Lawler are scheduled to become CFL free agent in February.

The CFL and CFL Players’ Association negotiated an opt-out clause in the collective bargaining agreement following the cancellation of the season, with that window closing on August 31st. Those players who were released are not eligible to sign with another CFL team during the duration of their contract and must notify the Bombers by January 31, 2021 if they plan on returning.

Lawler, who led the Bombers in receiving yardage last year with 637 yards on 63 receptions for four touchdowns en route to being named the team’s Most Outstanding Rookie, just turned 26 and was poised to build on his first season.

Hansen, meanwhile, was a revelation for the Bombers after being selected by club second overall in the Global Draft and then, by season’s end, having morphed from a special teams guy to a regular rotational player on defence.

More than anything, Hansen felt the need to continue that growth on the field in whatever way possible.

“I have a good coach here from the States and he’s going to teach me a lot of stuff technique-wise that I need to get better at,” said Hansen. “It’s also, I think, in the Bombers’ interest to allow me to play like this. I thank them for that. You can lose a lot of knowledge in one year if you don’t practice it and go over it over and over. It’s good for me to get into games and play the whole eight games.”

“In a way I thought that the (CFL) season would be cancelled because they pushed the season so far back and we didn’t hear a lot of stuff. But there was a hope that the season could start. I was really hoping for that.

“When I first heard the news my reaction was, ‘Why now?’ I went there to Winnipeg and had my first season and it was so much fun. But I’m 27 now… it was definitely a blow. It’s hard for me to put it into words.”

Poland’s LFA suspended all activities in mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit but is now planning for its six teams to begin play in a seven-week season on Sept. 5 and finish on Nov. 7.

Hansen’s Panthers open their season against the Tychy Falcons on Sept. 5.