Blue Bombers tweak trade for Zeke Moreno
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers found a way to get linebacker Zeke Moreno from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats without trading away defensive end Tom Canada.
The CFL teams completed a trade Tuesday that saw Moreno sent to Winnipeg for a first-round pick in next year's draft and the rights to defensive lineman Corey Mace, currently on the practice roster of the Buffalo Bills.
The Bombers also get a conditional third-round draft pick in 2009, should Mace sign with Hamilton.
Canada, the Bombers' outstanding defensive player last year, was initially headed to Hamilton for Moreno until he went to hospital Monday night for tests that revealed an enlarged spleen.
That sent both teams back to the drawing board and Canada back in hospital for further tests before he goes on the Bombers' injured list.
Blue Bombers general manager Brendan Taman said the fifth-year veteran will be welcomed back once he's well.
"We didn't cut him, we didn't say we didn't want you," Taman said. "We got Zeke Moreno [for] him and now we're able to get Zeke Moreno without giving him up, so he's got to take care of his health."
The chances of Canada, who also missed a practice with flu-like symptoms last week, playing again this season are "remote," Taman said, adding it depends on his health and how the team is playing.
After telling the free-spirited Canada that he was staying put, Canada handled it well and no bridges have been burned, Taman said.
"'Cool,' that's what he said," Taman said. "And [that he is] very happy."
Berry said when the trade was in the works he talked to Canada and told him he'd be missed.
Now he plans to go visit him in hospital.
"I'm glad in a way that he's back here," Berry said. "All the positive things that I appreciate in him, I think he's got a different quality that sometimes you really need that guy around."
'Everything is different'
Moreno arrived in Winnipeg on Monday night after the Ticats fired head coach Charlie Taaffe and replaced him with offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille.
He couldn't practise with the Bombers until a new agreement was reached between the 2-8 teams that share last place in the East Division.
While he's disappointed with a deal that makes him uproot his wife and three-year-old son, Moreno said he was thankful for the opportunities Hamilton gave him.
"Everything is different, from warm-up to stretches to just individuals," he said after practice. "Just getting used to that and getting accustomed to that, that's pretty much the biggest change."
Winnipeg travels to Toronto for a game Friday against the 4-6 Argonauts, who fired Rich Stubler and named Don Matthews head coach Tuesday.
Moreno, 29, said he can help his new club in their preparations because Hamilton already played Toronto three times this season.
"I know their strengths and weaknesses, I know their favourite plays and so now it's just more a concentration on what I have to do learning my system," Moreno said.
The Bombers needed Moreno after linebackers Joe Lobendahn (knee) and Ike Charlton (groin) were injured in Sunday's 34-31 loss to Saskatchewan.
Moreno was a league all-star last year, his first in the CFL, and had a league-high 114 tackles.
He leads the league again this year with 52 tackles and also had an interception for a touchdown against Winnipeg earlier this season.
'Anything and everything can happen'
The Bombers had already found a replacement for Canada when they signed six-year veteran defensive end Kai Ellis on Monday after the six-foot-three, 254-pounder was cut by Montreal.
Also able to play linebacker, Ellis practised with his new team Tuesday.
It's been a flurry of change in Winnipeg lately, as last week the Bombers traded all-time leading rusher Charles Roberts to B.C. for running back Joe Smith.
"You hope to deal with these things in the off-season, but when you're 2-8, you're going to deal with these things almost every week," slotback Milt Stegall said.
"After the Charlie decision-trade, I think people realize nobody's safe. Nobody's secure, nobody's guaranteed anything.
"Anything and everything can happen. The way we were playing, these things were going to happen."
Taman said the changes would not include the removal of Berry, who signed an extension with the team before the season that's believed to be for two additional years.
Despite the recent moves, Berry doesn't think the players have been negatively affected.
"To my knowledge, I think we're a good locker room," Berry said.
Taman said he still needs time to digest the bizarre deal for Moreno, which he described as the strangest and most stressful he's been involved with since joining the league in 1987.
He didn't think it was embarrassing for the club.
Hamilton was seeking other players instead of Canada, but nothing worked out and there is no promise for future considerations, Taman added.
The league office was kept informed of what was going on in case it had to step in if a deal couldn't be reached.