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cnotes
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Cnotes 2013 Canadian Football Best Bets and Grey Cup Winner !

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On 06/26/2013 12:45 AM in NFL
Five storylines to follow as the CFL season kicks off


THE CANADIAN PRESS

The 2013 CFL regular season kicks off June 27 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hosting the Montreal Alouettes. Here's a look at five storylines worth watching this season:

Hawkins era in Montreal

Dan Hawkins has a tough act to follow as the Montreal Alouettes head coach. Not only does he have no CFL coaching experience, he replaces Marc Trestman, who led the club to a 59-31 regular-season record and two Grey Cup wins over five seasons before being named head coach of the NFL's Chicago Bears.

Trestman was regarded as an offensive guru and a quarterback technician. Alouettes veteran passer Anthony Calvillo, 40, flourished under Trestman, throwing for more than 5,000 yards three times and putting up a career-high 43 TD passes in 2008.

Fortunately for Hawkins, Calvillo returns for a 20th CFL season and will have veteran receivers Jamel Richardson and S.J. Green to throw to.

Running back Brandon Whitaker, the CFL rushing leader in 2011, has also resumed practising after suffering a season-ending knee injury last year.

Argos' quest to repeat

The Toronto Argonauts will attempt to win consecutive Grey Cup titles for the first time since 1996-97. Toronto captured the 100th Grey Cup last year with a new head coach (Scott Milanovich) and quarterback (Ricky Ray), and both return with a year together under their belt.

It took Ray some time to become acclimated to Milanovich's offence, but down the stretch the veteran quarterback showed the poise and savvy Argos GM Jim Barker had expected when he acquired Ray in a blockbuster deal with the Edmonton Eskimos. Ray showed a definite chemistry with Chad Owens, who was the CFL's outstanding player.

This off-season Barker acquired controversial defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell from B.C. Mitchell is a former CFL all-star who was suspended twice last season. Despite initially saying he wasn't heading East, the 28-year-old Mitchell will be the anchor of the club's defensive line in 2013.

No Ticats in Steeltown

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will play their home games in Guelph, Ont., as a new venue is built where Ivor Wynne Stadium, once stood.

The Ticats missed the playoffs last year, costing head coach/GM George Cortez his job after just one season. The club hired former CFL quarterback and head coach Kent Austin as its vice-president of football operations, GM and coach.

A priority was revamping a defence that allowed 32 points (league-high) and 409 yards (second-most) per game. Veteran linebacker Rey Williams, defensive backs Bo Smith and Geoff Tisdale were released while linebacker Shomari Williams, defensive lineman Brian Bulke and defensive backs Evan McCullough and James Patrick were signed.

Offensively, quarterback Quinton Porter and running backs Martel Mallett and Avon Cobourne were released while receiver/returner Chris Williams remains embroiled in a contract dispute.

Riders look to keep the streak alive

Serving as Grey Cup host has proven quite beneficial the last two years. In 2011, the B.C. Lions beat Winnipeg at B.C. Place before Toronto dispatched Calgary in last year's 100th Grey Cup at Rogers Centre. This year's game will be played at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, which puts the onus on the Saskatchewan Roughriders to keep the home streak alive.

The Riders finished third in the West Division last year with an 8-10 record before losing 36-30 to Calgary at McMahon Stadium in the conference semifinal. Saskatchewan last hosted a home playoff game in 2010, defeating B.C. 41-38 in the West Semi-Final after finishing second with a 10-8 record.

The club last won the Grey Cup in 2007, defeating Winnipeg 23-19 at Rogers Centre. This off-season the Riders bolstered their lineup by signing free-agent defensive linemen Ricky Foley and John Chick and defensive back Dwight Anderson while acquiring veteran slotback Geroy Simon from B.C.

Much change in BC

Change was the operative word in Vancouver this off-season.

GM Wally Buono traded such veterans as Mitchell and backup quarterback Mike Reilly (to Edmonton), released others like receiver Arland Bruce III and cornerback Byron Parker while re-signing free-agent receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux as well as quarterback Travis Lulay, offensive linemen Jovan Oliafoye and Ben Archibald and linebacker Solomon Elimimian.

But most significant was trading Simon -- the CFL's all-time receiving yards leader -- to Saskatchewan after 12 seasons in Vancouver. The good news for the Lions is that Buono knows what it takes to succeed in the CFL. He has amassed a league-record 254 career coaching wins and record-tying five Grey Cup titles. He's been named the league's coach of the year four times, second only to Don Matthews, who had five.
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06/26/2013 12:48 AM
Pedersen: Ready or not, the 2013 season is here

Ready or not, the 2013 Canadian Football League season is upon us.

For the Saskatchewan Roughriders, their Week 1 game is at the Edmonton Eskimos Saturday afternoon at 1:30 pm (TSN, CKRM Rider Radio Network), and after a 1-1 preseason the question is; are they truly ready?

Rider Nation was elated at their team’s performance in their first exhibition game, a 31-24 comeback win at Edmonton which featured five sacks and four interceptions, not to mention a dramatic last-minute touchdown drive by rookie quarterback Tino Sunseri.

Less than a week later the Riders were home at Mosaic Stadium, taking on the defending CFL West Division champion Calgary Stampeders.

The Riders didn’t look anywhere near as sharp as they did against the Eskimos, as they fell 24-23 to the Stamps.

The outcome of the game is meaningless, so no one’s worried about that. However, quarterback Darian Durant was mauled repeatedly by Calgary defenders in his nearly three-quarters of work.

The Stamps rung up six sacks on the night.

Meanwhile the Roughrider defensive front never really got near Stampeder quarterbacks at all, which was a stark contrast from the week before.

Calgary clearly won the battle in the trenches, along the line of scrimmage, and served noticed that they'll be a formidable opponent all season long.

“Yes they did,” said Rider GM Brendan Taman.

“Both sides of the ball and that’s where we lost the game, really. They need to be better there.”

The highlight of the game from a Saskatchewan perspective was a 97-yard rushing, two-touchdown performance by sophomore tailback Kory Sheets.

Other than that, the club wasn’t overly productive. Sunseri threw a 60-yard bomb to Greg Carr in the dying moments which would have set the team up to potentially win the game, but the perfectly-thrown pass went right through Carr's hands.

Que sera, sera.

“Pretty blasé,” Taman continued, when asked for an overall assessment of how his team played.

“We probably didn’t perform as well in a lot of areas as we would have liked. There were a lot of reasons for that but we could have played better. Luckily it didn’t cost us two points.”

The Roughriders likely came out of that game with more questions than they did answers. They had hoped to sort out their field-goal kicking situation against Calgary but they only got one official attempt. Veteran Chris Milo got the job by default as rookie Brody McKnight was one of two dozen cuts on the weekend.

And that’s not all.

Veteran slotback Geroy Simon was excited to make his Saskatchewan Roughrider debut Thursday night but he never caught a pass in a quarter of work, and left the game with injury.

Taman says it’s a “leg injury” and they’ll have to monitor it during the week and then make a decision on Simon’s availability by Saturday.

A comment about Simon from a CFL scout this off-season has been ringing in my ears since.

“Simon will be great for you guys as long as he stays healthy,” the scout said.

“But if he gets hurt, that’s not good. You don’t recover from injuries as quick at his age.”

However it’s too early to sound the alarm bells on that.

And, with a broken leg suffered by starting right offensive tackle Patrick Neufeld in training camp, sophomore Ben Heenan has been thrust into that role to start the season. Heenan welcomes the challenge, but it’s not the top unit.

Either way, the Eskimos will be waiting for the Riders come Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

Ready or not, the season is here.
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06/26/2013 12:51 AM
Worth watching: 10 players to keep an eye on


THE CANADIAN PRESS

The 2013 CFL regular season gets underway June 27 in Winnipeg with the Blue Bombers hosting the Montreal Alouettes.

Here are 10 players to watch this year:

Chad Owens, Toronto: The 31-year-old Hawaiian was sensational in 2012, posting a league-record 3,863 all-purpose yards while leading the CFL in receiving with 94 catches for 1,328 yards and six TDs. And the league's outstanding player capped his stellar season by helping Toronto win the 100th Grey Cup.

Jon Cornish, Calgary: The 28-year-old native of New Westminster, B.C., was the CFL's top Canadian last year, and for good reason. Cornish ran for a league-high 1,457 yards to surpass Norm Kwong's 56-year-old record for most rushing yards by a Canadian. Cornish was also the first Canuck to lead the CFL in rushing since '88.

Andrew Harris, BC: The 26-year-old Winnipeg native also served notice last year he's a threat for the top Canadian award. The B.C.
Lions running back ran for 1,112 yards and added 75 catches for 718 yards. Harris scored 11 TDs and his 105 catches since 2011 is tops among CFL running backs.

Emmanuel Arceneaux, BC: It's been two years since the six-foot-two, 211-pound receiver played in the CFL, but he's back with the Lions. Arceneaux originally signed with BC as a free agent in 2009 and in two CFL seasons amassed 130 catches for 1,971 yards - a solid 15.2-yard average - and 12 TDs. He spent the last two years in the NFL.

Geroy Simon, Saskatchewan: The veteran slotback enters his 15th CFL season but first with the Roughriders after being dealt by B.C.
in the off-season. Simon was limited to 54 catches for 700 yards and two touchdowns last year due to hamstring injuries, the first time in 10 seasons he didn't crack the 1,000-yard plateau. Simon, 37, needs 29 catches to break Ben Cahoon's all-time record (1,017).

Buck Pierce, Winnipeg: The 31-year-old arrived at Winnipeg's camp 20 pounds lighter hoping to be more mobile. Injuries have plagued Pierce throughout his CFL career and his health will be a huge factor for the Bombers, who have former fourth-stringer Justin Goltz and newcomers Chase Clement and Max Hall behind Pierce.

John Chick, Saskatchewan: The defensive end is back with the Roughriders following three NFL seasons. Chick was the CFL's top defensive player in 2009 before signing with the Indianapolis Colts. He helped the Riders win the '07 Grey Cup and come close in '09.
That year, the six-foot-four, 250-pound Chick had 11 sacks and will be counted on to consistently pressure rival quarterbacks in 2013.

Arland Bruce III, Montreal: The slotback enters his 12th CFL season but first in Montreal with quarterback Anthony Calvillo.
Bruce has cracked the 1,000-yard receiving plateau six times and been a member of two Grey Cup-winning squads. But the 35-year-old's last 1,000-yard campaign was 2010. He had 43 catches for 603 yards last year with B.C. but still scored five TDs.

Mike Reilly, Edmonton: After three seasons serving as a backup in B.C., the six-foot-three, 215-pound Reilly is Edmonton's starter.
The Eskimos acquired Reilly to compete with Matt Nichols for the No. 1 job but the position became Reilly's for good after Nichols suffered a season-ending knee injury.

J.R. Larose, BC: The Lions boasted the CFL's top-ranked defence last year with Cauchy Muamba at safety. He's now in Winnipeg so Larose, 29, an Edmonton native, steps in. Larose should get plenty of support from a veteran Lions secondary but is no rookie. He's entering his third season in B.C. and seventh in the CFL.
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06/26/2013 12:53 AM
Lions aim to apply camp habits to game action

SURREY -- There were probably about as many surprises coming out of Saturday’s roster deletions as one could expect with a talented veteran squad like the Lions.

The club said goodbye to Elvis Akpla, Chris Clady, Glenn Love, Steven Shott, Bobby Davis and Ben Ossai and added Isi Sofele, DeAngelo Smith, Kyle Fischer, Matt McGarva and Matt Albright to the preactice roster on Sunday before hitting the field for three days of prep in advance of their season opener in Calgary.

"Training camp was very good to us,” said head coach Mike Benevides. “We had fantastic weather which allowed us the opportunity to take advantage of every single minute on the field. We have a lot of work to do and a lot of improvement is needed in a number of areas, but we’re operating from a solid foundation.”

Despite a 27-22 defeat at the hands of the Eskimos on Friday, there were a number of bright spots.

Second-round draft pick S.J. Haidara was solid on special teams and notched a brilliant 59-yard catch-and-run for a major in the fourth quarter.

“S.J. is one of the most intelligent players I’ve seen at this point in his career,” said special teams coordinator Chuck McMann. “He not only makes plays, he puts himself in position to do so.”

Last year’s first round selection Kirby Fabien is living up to his billing as a potential mainstay at guard while Matt Norman stepped seamlessly into the centre position in place of Angus Reid. Even fifth-round pick Matt Albright showed well at centre in the fourth quarter as Norman moved to guard to give him some reps.

“Matt Norman is a warrior,” says Benevides. “We’re fortunate to have a player of his ability shine so early in his career.”

Third-year kicker Hugh O’Neill looks ready for primetime and it appears he’ll be the go-to guy at least early on with Paul McCallum tweaking a groin in warm-up Friday night.

On defence, halfback Josh Bell looks like he’s ready for everyday duty after a pick in the end zone and some nice open field tackling Friday. Cord Parks also showed well and is fitting in well alongside Ryan Phillips.

“Josh is aggressive and athletic,” notes teammate Dante Marsh. “Once we are completely on the same page we’ll be a dangerous duo. It won’t take long, just takes game speed and reps to develop that non-verbal communication and sixth sense for what the other guy will do.”

On offence, Travis Lulay may have arguably the most gifted group of receivers in the league and Friday’s game was not a true indicator of the fireworks to come when the regular season lands.

“On paper, the offence is a Ferrari,” says Lulay. “My job is to make sure I don’t flood the engine trying to back out of the driveway. We were trying to properly execute the offence Friday, but it’s a pretty basic game plan in a preseason game with a lot of moving parts to get guys in and out. We’ll be better in Calgary.”

Another bright note was the play of back-up Thomas DeMarco who demonstrated he has a command of the offence and make things happen in tight situations.

“I would have loved to pull that game out and pick up a win, but it’s also a learning experience. A year ago, I wasn’t getting that kind of time on the field so I have to be pleased with my progression and prepare each week like I’m going to be called on to help us win.”

A win is exactly what the Lions will be aiming for when they clash with the Stampeders on Friday in Calgary.

“Last year is not forgotten,” says Benevides. “We have a collective chip on our shoulder and we better play like it.”
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06/26/2013 12:58 AM
Tiger-Cats face tough test against defending Champs


HAMILTON -- Saturday was the deadline for CFL teams to make their final roster cuts before the beginning of the 2013 regular season. The Tiger-Cats parted way with nine players on Saturday, with nine more being designated to the practice roster, and several others designated as injured. Head Coach Kent Austin held a short practice on Sunday, and spoke to the media about the cuts afterwards.

“It’s never easy making these cuts,” he said. “You’re talking about players’ lives and careers, and if you have any heart in the matter it’s not easy to deliver that news, but it has to be done.”

Quarterback Henry Burris had great things to say about the squad that Austin has selected, praising the team’s depth all the way down to the practice roster.

“Our second string units we believe could be starting anywhere else in this league, and the fact that they’re here, we’re very lucky to have them” he said.

“We cut a lot of talented players, and that goes to show the depth we have here on this team.”

But now that cuts have been made, the focus in Hamilton shifts to this Friday, and to the first game of the 2013 regular season, when the Tiger-Cats will travel to the Rogers Centre to take on the Argonauts.

As the defending Grey Cup champions, the Argonauts will certainly pose a challenge for opening night, but veteran linebacker Jamall Johnson believes that his team will be up to the challenge.

“I like the direction this team is headed,” he said. “The coaching staff has given all of us the tools we need to succeed, and I think we have a lot of challenge on not only this defence, but on this team as a whole. We’re looking forward to the Toronto game.”

Burris was also excited about beginning the regular season this week against the Argos.

“Toronto are the Grey Cup Champions, they’re our rival in the East just down the street, and we dropped a couple heartbreakers to them last year,” said Burris. “Yeah, we’ll be looking forward to Friday.”

With the roster mostly finalized for the regular season, the Tiger-Cats must now look forward in order to begin the 2013 on the right foot. If the pre-season was any indication, the Ticats look to be competitive this season, and a win against the 2012 Grey Cup Champions on opening night would certainly open some eyes around the league.

“In Toronto’s mind, they’re going to come out there and try to prove that what we did in pre-season was a fluke, that they still have supremacy in this division,” said Burris. “Right now we want to change that. This is a huge game.”
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06/26/2013 01:01 AM
Morris: Lions built for Grey Cup success in 2013


A BC Lions team that was very good last year was retooled over the winter in hopes of being even better this season.

By saying goodbye to several veterans, most notably future Hall of Fame slotback Geroy Simon, the Lions hope to have made additions through subtractions as they enter their 60th CFL campaign.

"We lost some pretty heroic players," said defensive lineman Keron Williams. "We have guys to fall in line and pick up the slack where they left off. We have young guys with talent and speed."

Head coach Mike Benevides believes the Lions are deeper in talent this year.

"We have more depth," said the second-year coach.
Lulay high on BC's chances

"I think when you look at the depth; some of the chemistry that we have together, those are the two facets that are going to pay dividends."

BC led the league last year with a 13-5 record. But the Lions' dreams of repeating as Grey Cup champions turned into a nightmare when they were upset 34-29 by the Calgary Stampeders in the Western Final at BC Place Stadium.

"I guarantee you there will be points in time where that game, and that tape and those memories, come out," said Benevides.

"That was a missed opportunity, a regret I will carry to my grave. That's never going to change. We will learn from it but we can't dwell on it."

The biggest change for the Lions came when Simon, the CFL's all-time receiving leader, was traded to Saskatchewan. Also gone are veterans like slotback Arland Bruce, backup quarterback Mike Reilly, defensive back Byron Parker, defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell, safety Cauchy Muamba, and defensive back Anthony Reddick.

General manager Wally Buono maintained some consistency by re-signing more than 20 players, including quarterback Travis Lulay, offensive tackle Jovan Olafioye, the CFL's top lineman last year, and hard-hitting linebacker Solomon Elimimian.

Lulay, who threw for 4,231 yards with 27 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions last season, has established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He is healthy again after dealing with a shoulder injury during the latter part of last season.

Even with the loss of Simon and Bruce, Lulay still has an impressive group of receivers to work with.

The return of Emmanuel Arceneaux, back after a two-year stint in the NFL, adds size and speed. The receiver's list also includes imports like Courtney Taylor, Nick Moore and Ernest Jackson, plus Canadians Shawn Gore, Akeem Foster, Marco Iannuzzi and Paris Jackson.

"You can never make people forget about Geroy and Arland," said Foster, a native of Ajax, Ont. "They are two of the greatest guys to ever play the game.

"At the end of the day it's our turn. We're up to bat. Every day is a challenge. For the young bucks we are up to the challenge. We're ready to come out and do what we were meant to do."

Running back Andrew Harris will be looking to build on his breakout season last year where he became the first Canadian since Terry Evanshen in 1967 to lead the CFL in yards from scrimmage. His total of 1,830 yards included 1,112 rushing and 718 receiving on 75 catches.

"I expect him to play at a very high level," said Benevides.

Any production from Lulay will depend on the protection he receives and already there are some concerns about the health of the Lions' offensive line.

Veteran centre Angus Reid missed all of training camp with a back injury and the 36-year-old is questionable for the Lions season-opener Friday night against Calgary. Right guard Dean Valli is also still rehabbing from a knee injury.

Second-year player Matt Norman has been penciled in at centre with 22-year-old rookie Kirby Fabien, a first-round draft pick in 2012, the right guard.

Benevides is confident the two young players will be quick learners.

"I know they have the ability to do it," said Benevides. "We have a great coaching staff to work with them.

"Certainly there will be times that we are going to have to show patience with them. It just doesn't happen overnight. These guys have the ability and the talent."

The rest of the line remains solid with Olafioye the right tackle, massive Patrick Kabongo the left guard and veteran Ben Archibald the left tackle.

The B.C. defence, which led the league last year in least first downs allowed, net offence and fewest points, has also been tinkered with.

Elimimian and Adam Bighill will give the Lions a potent one-two punch at linebacker, with Korey Banks moving from his halfback spot to the nickleback.

J. R. LaRose will take over at safety while newcomer Cord Parks, who has spent time with four NFL squads, will be one of the defensive backs.

The defensive front will see Williams, who led the CFL last year with 12 sacks, rotating with Jabar Westerman, last year's West Division rookie of the year, Eric Taylor, Khreem Smith and Brandon Jordan.

"Keron is a man without a position," said Benevides. "We are going to move him a around a fair bit."

Benevides expects some growing pains as the defence adjusts to the changes.

"When the live bullets start that may be the case in the beginning," he said. "There will be six or seven changes. It's quite a dramatic change.

"It's just not the new guys. It's also some guys in new positions. I feel good about the group and how hard they work."

Lulay believes this year's team has the potential to succeed where last year's squad failed.

"I think we have the chance to be a very good football team," he said. "The group is going into the season with some good confidence.

"Now it's a matter of going out and doing it."
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06/26/2013 01:02 AM
Matthews questionable for season opener vs. Als


WINNIPEG -- Despite best efforts to ensure a healthy starting lineup for the CFL season opener Thursday, Winnipeg Blue Bombers coach Tim Burke says Chris Matthews remains a question mark.

"We will know the morning of the game whether he can play or not,'' Burke said Tuesday after the team's No. 1 receiver last season did not attend practice.

The CFL's outstanding rookie in 2012, Matthews is nursing a minor ankle injury sustained during Sunday's practice. But Burke was a little more optimistic Tuesday than he had been earlier about Matthews' prognosis.

"Right now, I would say it's closer to him playing than not playing,'' he said. "It depends on how fast he can heal up in the next 48 hours.''

If he can play, missing a few days of practice won't hurt Matthews performance, Burke said. Receiver Terrence Edwards, who had off-season foot surgery, will be on the field.

"I'm really surprised at how well he's moving,'' Burke said of the veteran, who also topped the 1,000-yard mark last season for the fifth time as a Bomber.

"Last week I was going 'I don't know if he's going to be ready,' and this week he looks great.''

Burke says he feels the offence is ready but he has had questions this season about his defence.

"I feel better about our defence,'' he said after practice Tuesday.

"I still think . . . because we have a couple of young guys there that haven't played a CFL game, I'm a little concerned for them.''

On defence, the Bombers have rookies Desia Dunn, a linebacker who could be a starter with Johnny Sears still out, defensive back Marty Markett and defensive end Freddie Harris.

Burke says rookies can make their first game a bigger event that it should be and he's going to remind them they don't have to win it all by themselves.

Despite a new look offence and new protection schemes to try and keep quarterback Buck Pierce out of harm's way as much as possible, Burke says the opposition Thursday is much more of a blank slate.

The Montreal Alouettes have a new head coach and a new defence this season.

"They didn't show much in pre season. What we did see was different than what Montreal did under Marc Trestman and certainly different than what (Jeff) Reinebold did last year on defence,'' said Burke.

"We have no idea what they're doing and they know what we're doing.''
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06/26/2013 01:04 AM
Can Buck stay in the game? Bombers future tied to QB

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers may not be getting much respect from oddsmakers, who have them dead last as a Grey Cup bet this season, but coach Tim Burke will take that wager.

He says the team is further ahead than it was at the start of 2012, when they finished out of the playoffs, tied with Hamilton in the CFL cellar.

"Definitely, offensively, we're farther ahead than we were at this point last year,'' he says. "And) I think as far as desire to win we're farther ahead than we were last year.''

Starter Buck Pierce was sidelined last season by a series of injuries, and the Bombers floundered behind their backup quarterbacks. But Burke says the fire in the belly that got them to Vancouver to compete for the Grey Cup in 2011 also seemed lacking.

"I don't think we had the fire that we had coming back from the year before and I think we have a little bit more of that this year. Hopefully enough of it to get us some wins,'' he said.

But can they pull off a repeat of 2011, when they stunned pretty well everyone by rebounding from an even more dismal 4-14 finish the year before to challenge for the Cup?

Head coach Paul LaPolice, who led them to that final, paid for last year's poor performance with his job and Burke took over mid-season.

This year, Burke has put his stamp on the Bombers from the start. The team even has a brand new touchdown song to play in their new $200-million stadium, if and when they score one.

They didn't get a chance at their first exhibition game, with total offence consisting of two field goals in a 24-6 loss to the Toronto Argonauts. That was close compared with the 52-0 drubbing by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats that closed their pre-season.

Burke had left most of his A team at home when the Bombers crumbled before Hamilton and Henry Burris, and probably was glad the debacle wasn't televised.

But more so than in past years, this pre-season was about testing rookies and resting starters for the first regular-season game June
27 against Montreal.

First and foremost, the Bombers need Pierce healthy. Failing that, they must rely on one of their backups - Justin Goltz or Max Hall - to win games Pierce can't play.

It was Pierce who got them to the 2011 cup final but, with his injury record, training camp has been spent weighing who should stand directly behind him on the depth chart.

Hall is a CFL rookie (with NFL experience) but even Goltz, who won the toss as No. 1 backup, has thrown very few passes in his three seasons. Alex Brink and Joey Elliott, cut in the off-season, were always ahead of him on the chart.

That focus on backups means Pierce hasn't had much time to work on his game, but he insists he isn't concerned.

"It's OK, they're going to give me lots of reps this week, and we'll get ready to go,'' he said as camp wound down.

"I'll be fine. I've been playing for nine years, I'll be OK.''

The Bombers have been prepping a new-look offence and new protection schemes. They aren't taking the wraps off those though until the June 27 season opener at home against Montreal.

Of course, Pierce has to cooperate. Breaking out for an eight-yard run on his first play of the first pre-season game showed that the best-laid plans can fail in the execution. The Bombers let him play only three series before giving him the hook.

Quarterbacking remains the big question mark hanging over Winnipeg's offence.

Otherwise, it seems in good hands with the return of healthy runningbacks Chad Simpson, Chris Garrett and Will Ford. Burke has the enviable problem of looking for ways to hang onto all the talented import tailbacks at his disposal.

Simpson's starting job is secure after racking up more than 1,000 yards in his rookie season, good enough to be named an East Division all-star, but it's a toss up between the other two, with one destined for the regular roster and another likely the practice roster.

For receivers, Winnipeg has rookie of the year Chris Matthews and veteran Terrence Edwards, two 1,000-yard-plus performers, and plenty of depth behind them, including non-import Cory Watson.

Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton also now has a year of CFL experience under his belt.

The offensive line, a weak link as last season opened, has firmed up. And 2012 draft pick Tyson Pencer seems healthy enough and is persuading coaches he could become the ratio-changing tackle they saw in the six-foot-seven, 315-pound rookie, although he starts the season on the nine-game injured list.

Burke has clearly had issues with his defence though this season.

Last season, injuries forced the Bombers to play musical chairs with their defence. This season, Burke hasn't been happy with the veterans on the secondary and told them to pick up or pack up.

Despite a $35,000 signing bonus, two-time all-star Jonathan Hefney got a ticket to ride.

It may have been his play, but it also followed the news he'd been busted for marijuana possession at home in South Carolina. He was quickly snapped up by the Stampeders and his was the only departure that could be called a surprise.

To fill his place at halfback, the Bombers tabbed Demond Washington, who dazzled at times last season as a kick returner, when he held onto the ball.

Cauchy Muamba, brother to Winnipeg defensive linebacker Henoc Muamba, moves into safety, replacing Ian Logan.

Burke's call for new players challenging for spots on the secondary to push the veterans was heard, says Washington, who started as a linebacker, cornerback or halfback in seven games last season.

"I know they're hungry,'' he said of the rookies. "But the veteran guys are hungry too. We can't just sit there and let them get all the meat. We've got to get in and get us some food too.''

Cornerback Jovon Johnson, the CFL's outstanding defensive player in 2011, says the secondary is ready and the veterans know the score.

"I mean, we've got talent, all the way across the board,'' he said. "In this business, nobody's ever safe. You've got to come out and go out and perform and if you don't do that, they'll find guys to replace you.''
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06/26/2013 01:06 AM
Tiger-Cats face tough test against defending Champs

HAMILTON -- Saturday was the deadline for CFL teams to make their final roster cuts before the beginning of the 2013 regular season. The Tiger-Cats parted way with nine players on Saturday, with nine more being designated to the practice roster, and several others designated as injured. Head Coach Kent Austin held a short practice on Sunday, and spoke to the media about the cuts afterwards.

“It’s never easy making these cuts,” he said. “You’re talking about players’ lives and careers, and if you have any heart in the matter it’s not easy to deliver that news, but it has to be done.”

Quarterback Henry Burris had great things to say about the squad that Austin has selected, praising the team’s depth all the way down to the practice roster.

“Our second string units we believe could be starting anywhere else in this league, and the fact that they’re here, we’re very lucky to have them” he said.

“We cut a lot of talented players, and that goes to show the depth we have here on this team.”

But now that cuts have been made, the focus in Hamilton shifts to this Friday, and to the first game of the 2013 regular season, when the Tiger-Cats will travel to the Rogers Centre to take on the Argonauts.

As the defending Grey Cup champions, the Argonauts will certainly pose a challenge for opening night, but veteran linebacker Jamall Johnson believes that his team will be up to the challenge.

“I like the direction this team is headed,” he said. “The coaching staff has given all of us the tools we need to succeed, and I think we have a lot of challenge on not only this defence, but on this team as a whole. We’re looking forward to the Toronto game.”

Burris was also excited about beginning the regular season this week against the Argos.

“Toronto are the Grey Cup Champions, they’re our rival in the East just down the street, and we dropped a couple heartbreakers to them last year,” said Burris. “Yeah, we’ll be looking forward to Friday.”

With the roster mostly finalized for the regular season, the Tiger-Cats must now look forward in order to begin the 2013 on the right foot. If the pre-season was any indication, the Ticats look to be competitive this season, and a win against the 2012 Grey Cup Champions on opening night would certainly open some eyes around the league.

“In Toronto’s mind, they’re going to come out there and try to prove that what we did in pre-season was a fluke, that they still have supremacy in this division,” said Burris. “Right now we want to change that. This is a huge game.”
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06/26/2013 01:08 AM
CFL.ca Pre-season Power Rankings: Lions on top


1
BC Lions
The Lions’ depth at all positions combined with their regular season success of 2012 lands them in the top spot heading into the new season. And you can bet they haven’t forgotten about their Western Final either.

2
Toronto Argonauts
The Grey Cup champs slot in at the two spot and for good reason. With a full year under his belt, expect Ricky Ray to pick up right where he left off last November. Perhaps the only thing separating them from number one is their unproven defence and the argument that they got hot at the right time last season.

3
Calgary Stamepders
Last year’s Western Champs enter the new campaign with a healthy starting QB in Drew Tate and the league’s reigning rushing king/top Canadian Jon Cornish finally together again in the same backfield. Expect them to play massive roles in Calgary’s success early on.

4
Montreal Alouettes
There’s plenty new in Montreal (new head coach, new defence) but the one thing that consistently remains the same is Anthony Calvillo. With him behind centre – along with his dangerous arsenal of receivers – anything is possible for the Als.

5
Saskatchewan Roughriders
The Riders qualified for the post-season after missing the year before, but spirits are high in Saskatchewan. Free agent signings like Geroy Simon, Ricky Foley and Dwight Anderson should give a young lineup some much needed veteran presence.

6
Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Arguably the most interesting team to watch this year, the Ticats insist that they won’t have a problem with their home on the road at Guelph’s Alumni Stadium. Still, questions always surround a new coaching staff and it will take some time for a revamped secondary to show how far along their defence really is.

7
Edmonton Eskimos
Is Mike Reilly the answer for Edmonton’s QB problems? How much of a positive impact will the addition of Odell Willis and a healthy Marcus Howard have on the Esks’ defensive line? Suffice to say, there are plenty of questions for a team that indeed got in the playoffs last year but needed some help from the crossover.

8
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Simply put, the Bombers need QB Buck Pierce to stay healthy if they want to remain competitive in 2013. Also, a heavily maligned secondary will have to prove themselves early on. Was their pre-season an indication of things to come?
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
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