WINNIPEG – Brett Carter was grinning ear to ear again Tuesday as he donned a Winnipeg Blue Bombers uniform for the second time in two years.
The former Winnipeg Rifles receiver got to work out with the team last season and even dressed for a July game, then spent the rest of the season on the practice roster. He’s hoping to take the next step on his dream quest to make his hometown team.
“I’m coming in here and I’m going to fight for a spot,” he said Tuesday as Day 3 of main training camp ended but his just started.
“I’m going to be competing against a lot of these guys and there are a lot of really good players so I’ve got to step my level up a lot and just be determined to do the best that I can do.”
He’s just 21 but was a CJFL All-Canadian and took home MVP honours with the Rifles, on top of being named a Prairie Football Conference All-Star.
Last season, it was more of a teaching move to invite the young player to camp. The Bombers also invited a few Rifles players and a University of Manitoba Bisons quarterback to camp this year to work out with the team.
But when July rolled around last season, injuries forced the Bombers to look for a Canadian to dress and Carter got the call. Coach Mike O’Shea said injuries in camp were also the reason Carter got a call this season as the Bombers look to bolster their Canadian talent.
“When you’re faced with a certain number of injuries and you’re looking at who’s on your list of guys to bring back, he was here before, he understands what we’re trying to do here, he’s local, he’s good,” said the coach.
Carter impressed the coaches last season with his work ethic and ability. He also worked out with a team trainer in the off-season.
Winnipeg-born Taylor Renaud, who played for Acadia, is also getting another look at Bombers camp as a receiver this season.
The Bombers traded away two Canadian receivers in the off-season to acquire starting quarterback Drew Willy and defensive back Korey Banks.
Willy, who was a backup in Regina, said after Tuesday’s practice that he’s starting to get more of a feel for the receivers he’ll be working with this season.
One is former B.C. Lions receiver Nick Moore, who was signed as a free agent in the off-season. Willy has known Moore for years, going back to when they were both trying to land jobs in the NFL.
“I like what I’m seeing, I’ve thrown with Nick before,” said Willy.
“Guys like (Clarence) Denmark and Rory (Kohlert), these guys are good players as well so it’s fun to be around talented guys like this. I’ve thrown a bunch of balls to Aaron Kelly and we’ve made a lot of big plays with him. I’m just trying to put together things with each guy, get a feel for how they run each route.”
The CFL labour dispute continues to hang over the camp and the Bombers and the Toronto Argonauts could be the first to feel the impact. They are scheduled to open the exhibition season Monday and the regular season on June 26, also in Winnipeg.
The team’s player rep, veteran offensive lineman Glenn January, suggested the players aren’t rushing to take any action.
“The conversations I’ve had have been strictly limited to what we can do to get the CFL to see our point of view,” he said.
The Winnipeg exhibition game comes before the two Alberta teams could legally strike. January said he knows that.
“Our strike laws are different than Alberta and I do know that we have a strike vote in hand which is my understanding can be exercised at any point in time.”
But he also suggested the exhibition game wasn’t necessarily in jeopardy, unless the players were forced to vote on the league’s contract offer. If it was rejected, he said it would deprive players in some provinces of any protection under the collective agreement.
The two sides in the CFL labour dispute haven’t held formal meetings since Thursday and no new talks are scheduled.
© 2014 The Canadian Press