May 16, 2018 9:45 pm

Winnipeg Blue Bombers top draft pick with ‘clean slate’ as club opens rookie camp

Winnipeg Blue Bombers receiver Rashaun Simonise makes the catch during day one of rookie camp.

Michael Draven / Global News

WINNIPEG – Close to 50 players put on the pads for the start of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ three-day rookie camp.

Among them was the Bombers’ top selection in the 2018 CFL Draft, 12th overall pick Rashaun Simonise.

Simonise, 22, stands at six-foot-four and is more experienced than your prototypical rookie after attending training camp with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals in 2016.

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“Just eager to get going,” Simonise said. “Eager to get back in the playbook to start learning my stuff. Eager to start off the chemistry with the guys.”

And there is a starting job up for grabs at receiver following the release of Matt Coates earlier in the week after he was injured in his off-season workouts.

“Starting job or not, just excited to be with the football family again and compete each and every day and get better,” Simonise said. “That’s the main goal regardless of who’s starting or not. We’re just trying to come out here and get better and ultimately win games.”

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It’s been a long road to the CFL for Simonise. While with the Calgary Dinos, he was ruled academically ineligible for the 2016 season.

And then at Bengals camp, he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, which not only got him suspended by the NFL for four games, but also pushed back his CFL draft eligibility by one year.

But he’s confident all of his off-field issues are now in the past.

“Having the things I love most taken away from me, you obviously learn from those mistakes,” Simonise said.

“I’ve been trouble-free for the last two years, you know what I mean. So it’s going pretty well. I’m on a pretty good path right now so I’m just trying to put everything in the past and continuing forward, just make the best decisions and stay out of harm’s way.”

WATCH: Raw Rashaun Simonise interview

Head coach Mike O’Shea doesn’t sound very worried about Simonise’s checkered past.

“To me it’s a clean slate,” O’Shea said.

“I’ve had players come in the past and want to sit down in my office and talk about what happened in their past and I stop them very quickly and say that’s not of interest to me. It’s what you do from this point forward.”

WATCH: Raw Mike O’Shea media briefing

O’Shea also said receiver Chris Givens has chosen not to report for training camp. He appeared in the final three games for the Bombers last season where he made five catches for 48 yards.

The Bombers rookies and their four quarterbacks will have two more days of practice to leave a good impression before the rest of the team shows up. The veterans will report for physicals on Saturday with everyone to hit the field for the start of main training camp on Sunday morning.

RELATED: Winnipeg Blue Bombers add four more to camp roster and drop one

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