Winnipeg Blue Bombers gearing up for 1st exhibition game

Jordan Pearn / Global News

With 10 days of training camp sessions now behind them, just three days remain until the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will get their first of two pre-season tests. The Bombers host the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday at IG Field, and it’s expected that Matt Nichols will start at quarterback, but it’ll probably be only for a brief cameo.

“We’re still going through that process,” head coach Mike O’Shea said when asked who will start at quarterback on Friday.

“I’m pretty sure it’ll be Matt, but it’s, you know, I got to sit down with Matt, and ask him what he thinks he needs, and how that marries with what we think he needs.”

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One player looking forward to his first exhibition game in the blue and gold is offensive lineman Geoff Gray. The Winnipegger joined the Bombers in the fall after being released by the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, and is vying for a starting job after the departures of Matthias Goossen and Sukh Chungh in the off-season.

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“There’s definitely been some ups and downs, but that’s gonna happen for everyone,” Gray said. “I feel like I’m getting better each day, so that’s really just what I want to keep focusing on.”

“I think you could line him up at a bunch of different spots,” O’Shea said. “He doesn’t look like typically like an offensive lineman. We were talking the other day. He looks like a giant linebacker, you know like, that’s how fit he is. He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s athletic, and it’s just once again, as he said, hasn’t played yet. It’s just a matter of him getting the reps.”

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After spending two seasons south of the border, it’s now been over two and a half years since Gray last played in a full game, and that was in university with the Manitoba Bisons.

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“It’s been a while since I’ve played a full game,” Gray said. “So I’m just looking forward to getting some playing time in the pre-season hopefully.”

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The Bombers also made a couple of player transactions on Tuesday. They released defensive back Rannell Hall and added yet another local player. The club signed Winnipeg long snapper Zach Greenberg after he played the last four seasons with the University of Minnesota Crookston.

Greenberg is a former member of the Grant Park Pirates and he gives the team another option at long snapper to take some of the load off veteran Chad Rempel in training camp.

“We had three guys here that can long snap, and each one of them is sort of a little nicked up,” O’Shea said. “So we certainly don’t want to give Remp (Rempel) all the reps in the game.”

“Give Zach an opportunity, and get them in there, and see what he can do, and take a few reps off Remp too, cause he is the best in the league, and we’d like him to be fresh for the start of the season.”

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Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm on Friday. The Bombers will play their second and final pre-season game on June 6 in Saskatchewan against the Roughriders.

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