After falling one game short of a berth in the Grey Cup, Bombers coaches and players looked back on the season and ahead to the future.
The Calgary Stampeders will play in the Grey Cup game a third straight year after downing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 22-14 in Sunday’s CFL West Division final. Eric Rogers led the Stampeders with three touchdown catches, including a 10-yard leaping grab late in the fourth quarter.
Less than 24 hours after suffering a season-ending 22-14 loss to the Calgary Stampeders in the Western Division Final, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers gathered at Investors Group Field on Monday for what is known as “garbage bag day” to clean out their lockers and answer questions about not fulfilling their goal of winning a Grey Cup, as well as what’s next.
Middle linebacker Adam Bighill had a phenomenal season and is the West Division finalist for the CFL’s Outstanding Defensive Player Award. And while he enjoyed his first experience as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber, Bighill said his family is his number one consideration when he becomes a free agent in February.
Second-year linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox told reporters he suffered a fractured bone in his foot in the regular season finale at Edmonton and was delaying a decision on whether to have surgery, in the event the Blue Bombers advanced to the Grey Cup.
Like many players in the Canadian Football League, Santos-Knox will also become a free agent in February but indicated he’d love to stay here.
“Winnipeg gave me my first opportunity to play professional football,” said the Watertown, Connecticut native, “so I want to do everything in my power to stay here.”
Veterans like kicker Justin Medlock and defensive back Chris Randle definitely want to be back.
Randle said he’s fully committed to returning to the Blue Bombers because “the job’s not done yet.” And Medlock said he’s “all in” and even spoke to his wife about that on Monday.
“I think you have to be. If you’re kinda 50-50, you see the results that kinda happened in 2017 to me weren’t to my level and I think I was kinda 50-50 that whole year,” said Medlock.
Quarterback Matt Nichols is one of the few players who is signed for 2019 and he’s hopeful most of the team will be back to take another run at ending Winnipeg’s Grey Cup drought, which now stands at 28 years.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty. The best thing about it all is with the kinda culture we’ve built around here and that Coach O’Shea has built around here- that makes it a place where the guys want to be,” said Nichols.
“So whenever the CBA and that stuff gets finalized, I know that core group that has been here for the last few years, and been getting better and better every year and closer and closer.”
“I think those guys want to be a part of what we have going here. So I’m fully confident most of this team will look the same as it was this year.”
Head coach Mike O’Shea is confident his team is on the right track.
“I think we’ve given the fans over the last few years something they can be proud of on the field, and given them some excitement,” O’Shea said. “I know for a lot of fans, that isn’t enough.”
106th GREY CUP will begin next week. The next game is scheduled for Monday, November 26th, Calgary Stampeders vs Ottawa Redblacks, the game starts at 1:00 AM EET.