Be­gin­ning of the mend?

Blue hop­ing new ac­qui­si­tions will start turn­around of bro­ken team

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - SPORTS - By Ed Tait

GIVEN the hor­rific record, a six-game los­ing skid and the large shadow cast by a two-decades long Grey-Cup drought, most would sug­gest the changes made to the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers ros­ter on Tues­day — four air­lifted in, two shown the door — might be best de­scribed as:

A good bleepin’ start.

But with a new man­age­ment regime at the helm, there is now a sense that for the first time in four years real ros­ter changes have ar­rived and the depth chart, more than ever, should be scrib­bled in pen­cil, not ink.

“We’re look­ing at sev­eral po­si­tions,” said head coach Tim Burke. “Any­body that can up­grade or has po­ten­tial to up­grade us, re­gard­less of po­si­tion.

“We want to be com­pet­i­tive this year, we don’t want to just stand pat. We want to com­pete this year... I mean, we’re only four points be­hind (third- place Mon­treal) as crazy as it sounds. So, we’re not out of it by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion.”

The new faces in Bomber­land are im­port re­ceivers Mike Sims-Walker and Aaron Kelly, quar­ter­back Ja­son Bol­tus and Cana­dian kicker Brody McKnight. Sent adrift were place­kicker Justin Palardy and re­ceiver Isaac An­der­son. The 4-1-1 on the new ar­rivals:

Sims-Walker (6-2, 214, Cen­tral Florida): Third-round draft pick of the Jack­sonville Jaguars in 2007... Led the Jags in re­ceiv­ing in ’09 and had 122 re­cep­tions for 1,648 yards and 14 TDs in three years... A star at Cen­tral Florida who was twice named an All­Con­fer­ence USA se­lec­tion... Set school record for re­cep­tions in a sea­son with 90 as a se­nior... Ran a 4.35 in the 40 prior to the draft... Twice had sea­sons cut short by in­juries, had stints with St. Louis and, most re­cently, with the New York Jets but hasn’t played in a game since Oc­to­ber 2011.

Kelly (6-5, 195, Clem­son): Spent the last two years with the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats, start­ing eight games in 2011 and ap­pear­ing in six games last year... Was re­leased this May, prior to camp... At Clem­son, Kelly set the all­time ACC re­cep­tion record and also set school records in re­cep­tions and touch­downs as well as sin­gle-sea­son records for re­cep­tions (88) and touch­downs (11) in 2007.

Bol­tus (6-4, 225, Hartwick Col­lege): Spent three years with the Ti­cats from 2009-2011, suit­ing up as the third-string quar­ter­back in his fi­nal sea­son and com­plet­ing five of 15 passes for 48 yards... Worked with cur­rent Bomber of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Mar­cel Belle­feuille with the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL last year... Most re­cently with the Arena League’s Utah Blaze... Left school as Di­vi­sion III’s all-time leader in to­tal of­fence.

Brody McKnight (6-0, 204 Mon­tana): Cana­dian punter/place­kicker orig­i­nally se­lected in the first round (8th over­all) by the Mon­treal Alou­ettes in 2011... Has since bounced around the CFL, with stints with the Als, the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos, Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers and Hamil­ton.

Kelly’s fa­mil­iar­ity with the CFL and Belle­feuille’s of­fence makes him a can­di­date to be in the lineup quickly, pos­si­bly as soon as Sun­day’s an­nual trek to Regina for the Labour Day Clas­sic. Burke said Sims-Walker — who is get­ting a crash course in Cana­dian football — will be eval­u­ated in the next few days to see if he is ready.

But the changes are also, in­di­rectly, about rat­tling some cages in the locker-room.

“It’s ob­vi­ously go­ing to spur peo­ple to play bet­ter, the ones we al­ready have,” Burke said. “And then if th­ese guys are bet­ter play­ers then they’re go­ing to play.”

The Bombers cur­rently have three per­son­nel types beat­ing the bushes for more tal­ent: act­ing GM Kyle Wal­ters, di­rec­tor of player per­son­nel Ken Moll and Drew Mor­ris, pro­moted from re­gional to national scout af­ter the fir­ing of Joe Mack.

Sims-Walker might be con­sid­ered their big­gest ad­di­tion so far, as he was just added to their neg list 10 days ago.

“Trust me,” said Burke, “(the scout­ing staff) is work­ing very hard and I think you’ll see some more guys com­ing into the pro­gram soon.”

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