Over and over again Abu Daramy-Swaray heard variations of the same message: ‘flush it, forget it and move on.’
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers rookie cornerback was three plays into his professional football debut when, somewhat predictably, BC Lions quarterback Vernon Adams, Jr. decided to test the Colgate product with a deep ball. Daramy-Swaray was in good coverage, but also lost track of the flight of the pass and subsequently ran over Lions receiver Alexander Hollins, resulting in a 36-yard pass interference call that ultimately led to a touchdown a few plays later.
» MOP Watch: Landry’s early picks are in
» Prediction Time: CFL.ca writers’ Week 4 picks
» Power Rankings: A new world order
» Landry’s five takeaways from Week 3
» Visit the Game Zone and play Pick ‘Em presented by Old Dutch
It was, Daramy-Swaray confirmed Wednesday after practice, his ‘welcome to the CFL moment.’
“It 100 percent was. Getting that deep shot… usually I don’t panic that way in a game, but that comes with reps,” he said. “That was my welcome to the league. After that I got it out of my system and was ready to play ball at that point.
“It’s something you learn over the years. As a defensive back you have to have a short memory. You can’t dwell on the last play. At the end of the day, the most important play is the next play, so if I’m dwelling on that my game is only going to go downhill. Luckily, I’ve got guys like BA (Brandon Alexander), (Deatrick Nichols) and (Alden) Darby telling me, ‘Next play. Don’t worry about that. It happened. Let’s go. Next play. Flush it out. Put that on the tab, let it go.’”
Daramy-Swaray did just that, settling in to finish with two tackles and a pass knockdown in the loss to BC And then, disappointed with the loss but content with his resiliency in the game, he called home afterward.
“I know my mom is watching every game on TV and so after the last game I called her and let her know we lost,” Daramy-Swaray explained. “She said, ‘I watched the whole game.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, really?’ Then she said, ‘Yeah, I saw the ball bounce off your head’ which was the pass interference call. I said, ‘Thanks mom.’
“That,” he added with a chuckle, “is tough love.”
Daramy-Swaray’s performance last week – and how he regroups heading into Saturday’s Canada Day matchup with the Montreal Alouettes – could be seen as a theme for the entire Blue Bombers squad. No matter the experience level, whether it was a long-time vet or a rookie making his first start like Daramy-Swaray, the Blue Bombers as a collective understand they must be much, much better.
“I just needed to trust myself,” Daramy-Swaray said. “I trusted myself a lot during practice with the way I break and how I chase receivers. I felt like I just needed to trust myself more: trust my speed, trust my instincts, and not second-guess myself because it was my first time. I tried to play a little too perfect. I’ve just got to let it loose and trust myself. Now that I’ve got my first game out of the way I feel a little bit freer and can just run and play ball.
“First half, I believe I was shaky. Second half I felt like I came out a little bit more poised and a little bit more calm. Once I got to the locker room, I just flushed it. It was, ‘OK, the first half is done.’ I talked to myself and said, ‘You didn’t come this far just to come this far. It’s time to just play ball.’
“With it being my first game and starting, I knew how I played could dictate a lot about my future. I put a lot of pressure on myself in that sense. Now that I’ve got that out of the way and had a decent game – of course I wish I could have made more plays – I can play more freely now. I honestly feel like I trust myself a lot more now because I’ve seen what I’m capable of and especially in that second half I showed myself that. Now I just need to trust that.”
“A young guy is kind of a blank slate and you’re building off his physical skillset,” added Blue Bombers defensive backs coach Jordan Younger. “Abu has very good speed, very good jumping ability, good footwork. So, we start with that and every week we learn from the lessons and put everything we did wrong behind us.
“(He’s) young. Made some plays. Showed up. And there are a few plays I’m sure he wants back, but that comes with experience. That first start at corner is always going to be a challenge for a young guy because you don’t know what you don’t know.”
The Blue Bombers could be seeing another change in their air defence heading into Montreal with cornerback Desmond Lawrence not participating for a second straight day of practice. Remember, too, this is a unit already without veteran Winston Rose and second-year man Jamal Parker.
“It’s still a work in progress, but the guys are working,” said head coach Mike O’Shea of his secondary. “That first drive against BC I think there were some plays to be made and with a couple more games experience I think they would have made those plays. We have confidence in the depth of the group. They’re a good group.”
Winnipeg’s defence has surrendered an average of 25.3 points per game through three starts, ranking seventh in the league. They’ve been stout against the run – third best – and rank sixth against the pass. Again, it’s early and it does speak of a ‘work in progress’ as O’Shea hinted above about the secondary.
But defensive coordinator Richie Hall wants more. Much more.
“We just always seemed like we were just a step behind,” said Hall of the loss to the Lions. “Then we seemed to get into somewhat of a flow but didn’t make a play. The game started at 7:30 and we might have showed up at 7:40. That’s what it seemed like – we were just always late. Even though we seemed like we might have a chance to get back into it, we never caught up.
“… Our defence has been high and low. We’ve played well at times; we haven’t played well at times. In order for us to be at the standard we set for ourselves, we’ve got to be consistent.”
With Adam Bighill absent the last couple of days, veteran Shayne Gauthier has been getting a lot of work at middle linebacker… Greg McCrae, Janarion Grant and Brendan O’Leary-Orange are seeing increased workloads with the Ones on offence, with Carlton Agudosi’s reps on the second unit… DE Jackson Jeffcoat has been practising fully, along with DT Cam Lawson and OL Tui Eli. RB Brady Oliveira has not practiced, with Johnny Augustine and McCrae getting work there.