Drew Willy nears return from ankle injury for Blue Bombers
Coach O'Shea says QB 'dodged bullet' with ankle injury
Quarterback Drew Willy looks good to go when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday in their Labour Day rematch.
Willy had "precautionary" X-rays on the ankle he injured in Saskatchewan's 35-30 home win over Winnipeg last Sunday, Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea said.
"I think he dodged a bullet there and I think he's tough," O'Shea said Wednesday.
O'Shea could've added Winnipeg dodged one also as Willy has been one of the club's best players this season. The Bombers (6-4) are fourth in the West Division, just two points behind Saskatchewan and Edmonton (both 7-2) and two points ahead of fifth-place B.C. (5-4).
O'Shea admitted he hadn't yet seen the results of the X-rays but said Willy seems fine.
Defensive lineman Kashawn Fraser wasn't so lucky and could be gone for a few weeks with a knee injury.
On Tuesday, Winnipeg dealt defensive back Alex Suber to the Toronto Argonauts for defensive lineman Thaddeus Gibson. Gibson had one sack, one interception and six tackles in five games with the Argos, including three starts.
Linebackers on limp
O'Shea also said linebackers Ian Wild and Rene Stephan might not be ready to play Sunday.
O'Shea said the trade with Toronto was driven by the Argos as Suber hadn't played this season with the Bombers.
"Alex, he's got a relationship with [Toronto defensive co-ordinator Tim] Burke and they wanted him," O'Shea said. "He's been working very hard . . . and just hasn't been able to get on our roster.
"If Alex Suber wasn't going to get on our roster, it's prudent to move him and get an asset in return."
O'Shea said Winnipeg has plenty of depth in its secondary.
Winnipeg has posted a 5-1 record against East Division opponents this year but is just 1-3 within the West Division. However, that's not an issue for O'Shea.
"I tend to not pay attention to the idea of East versus West," he said. "Every game's a game we want to win . . . I don't see the value in looking at it that way, I really don't. I don't know how it's going to make my guys play harder. They play extremely hard right now.
"What we need to do is fix the things we can fix with penalties, ball security, protecting the quarterback."
But O'Shea also pointed to how close Winnipeg is to both Saskatchewan and Edmonton although the Bombers have played one more game than their division rivals.
"We turn around, we beat Saskatchewan and we've got the same number of wins as them," he said.
The Riders' strength offensively is their ability to run the football (league-best 145.7 yards per game) while Winnipeg's defence is ranked second-last against the run (118 yards per game). O'Shea said the Bombers are working hard to fix that problem and doesn't feel personnel changes are needed.
"They know right away," he said. "They come off the field and they'll tell you exactly what went wrong. It's not that they don't understand it . . .
"We've got a good group of guys that work extremely hard, that have bought into what we're doing. It's very hard to bring guys in the middle that are going to work like our guys work."
Meanwhile, O'Shea said he and the entire Bombers organization were completely surprised at the news this week that former Winnipeg quarterback Max Hall had been arrested in Arizona on suspicion of shoplifting and cocaine possession.
Hall was the only quarterback Winnipeg brought to camp this year from last year's roster and was one of the club's final cuts. O'Shea said the decision to release Hall had nothing to do with any off-field issues.
"It was pure football," O'Shea said. "When you hear about that situation, you only feel badly for him and hope that this is all a mistake and he gets whatever help he needs.”