Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence suffers another blow with loss of Brady Oliveira

Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Brady Oliveira (20) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Montreal Alouettes during the first half of the 110th CFL Grey Cup in Hamilton on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The hits just keep on coming for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as their offence will be missing two of its biggest weapons for Thursday’s Week 2 tilt against the Ottawa RedBlacks.

Receiver Kenny Lawler went down with a broken arm in the season opener and now last season’s CFL rushing champion, Brady Oliveira, is out with a knee injury. Oliveira was placed on the one-game injured list, so Johnny Augustine will get the start at running back instead.

“It’s tough,” quarterback Zach Collaros said. “Obviously, both those guys from a production-level standpoint are hard to match. As well as just their leadership qualities.

“With a guy like Johnny, you have an experienced guy who’s been here for many years and understands what we do offensively. And every time he gets an opportunity he does really well with it.”

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Oliveira didn’t miss a single game the last two seasons.

“They are upper-echelon players and they’re hard to replace,” head coach Mike O’Shea said. “But Buck’s (Pierce) going to call his game and we believe in the guys that are going to be playing and we believe they’re going to make plays. I mean, Johnny has been very good for us for a number of years. So, now he’s going to get the full load, right. It’s a good opportunity for him, right? He’s earned it too.”

Augustine has been used mostly in a backup role during his time with the blue and gold, now in his sixth season with the team. He scored their lone touchdown in the season-opening loss and takes the same approach every game whether he’s starting or not.

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“Just always staying ready, being ready for my teammates, my coaches,” Augustine said. “Even last week, even though I didn’t start, it was like, made the same notes, did the same things at practice, so obviously just going to go out there and do my thing, whatever is required.”

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Bombers. Linebacker Adam Bighill will be back in the lineup for his season debut after injuring his calf in training camp. He says he feels great now after being forced to watch the loss to the Montreal Alouettes from the sidelines and he doesn’t think the defence was that far off as they now prepare to face former Bombers QB Dru Brown with the RedBlacks.

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“Football is a very unique game in a sense that you need everybody to be perfect,” Bighill said. “I mean, 11 out of 12 isn’t good enough because you could still have explosives (plays) happen that change the game.

“We made just enough mistakes to make it not a reachable game for us. And we know what wins and we know what loses and it’s just a reminder of you got to handle the details to be able to win football games.”

The Bombers are making three changes to their 45-man roster in all. In addition to Bighill, Keric Wheatfall also enters the lineup to start at wide receiver for Lawler. Bailey Feltmate also comes onto the active roster to make his Bombers debut after three seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Oliveira, Lawler and defensive tackle Jamal Woods are all coming out.

Kickoff on Thursday is at 6:30 p.m. Manitoba time.

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