Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Ottawa Redblacks kick off anniversary season with high hopes against Winnipeg Blue Bombers | TSN

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OTTAWA — The Ottawa Redblacks hope to have much to celebrate during their 10th anniversary season, starting with a win Thursday night against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Watch the Redblacks clash with the Blue Bombers LIVE on TSN1/3, TSN.ca and the TSN App, with coverage starting at 7pm ET / 4pm PT. 

After four years of disappointment and dashed expectations, everyone from the front office to the coaches, players and fans is ready to have something to cheer about.

The first test comes against a seasoned and ornery Winnipeg Blue Bombers, setting up a showdown between new Ottawa quarterback Dru Brown and his mentor, Zack Collaros.

The Bombers just took a hit with a 27-12 loss in Week 1 to Montreal, their biggest season opener setback at home since 1999. Winnipeg has not dropped its first two games in any season since 2016.

Winnipeg will have to deal with the loss of star tailback Brady Oliveira due to a knee injury and receiver Kenny Lawler was moved to the six-game injured list. Keric Wheatfall, a first-year receiver, will take Lawler’s spot in the starting lineup. There is some good news for the Bombers with the return of middle linebacker Adam Bighill.

The Redblacks are coming off a bye-week and are anxious to hit the field.

“You want to get out there and play that first game of the regular season,” said head coach Bob Dyce. “The anticipation has been building for two weeks. It’s kind of like keeping thoroughbreds in the stable. These guys are champing at the bit. They’re excited to get the opportunity to play against a very good team, in front of their home fans.”

The home team hasn’t had a lot to cheer about with Ottawa winning just five games at TD Place over the past four seasons.

Brown understands the expectations after so much misery in the nation’s capital the past few years but is trying to keep the focus on the game.

Facing his former team adds some extra motivation.

“You know, I think it will be fun,” said Brown. “You know, I’ve competed against those guys in practice but haven’t gotten to play them in a game. So, it will be fun but competing every week is fun. So, not necessarily any different.”

Brown admitted he stays in regular contact with Collaros, speaking almost daily, but he doesn’t view their situation as a competitive “me vs. him” scenario.

“I just go out there and compete and execute,” Brown said. “And whatever happens, happens.”

Brown, with a 2-1 record through three career starts, will have plenty of options downfield with the Redblacks boasting four former 1,000-yard receivers — Jaelon Acklin, Bralon Addison, Justin Hardy, and Dominique Rhymes — raising hopes for a collective breakout season.

In 2015 and 2016 the Redblacks had the first four receivers on the same team to all record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in CFL history.

While ensuring everyone is contributing could be a challenge Addison says the group understands the overall priority.

“Obviously, we all want to make plays and, you know, be the guy that makes the big play but we also all have an understanding that, you know, the ultimate goal is a championship,” Addison said. “I think there’s a true, true friendship amongst us in that group and I think we all really like to see each other do well, so I don’t think it would be a problem of who’s getting the ball and who’s not. I think we just want to win.”

Running back Ryquell Armstead, who practised sparingly this week, will be a game-time decision. DeVonte Dedmon, who took a number of reps this week, will be able to fill in if necessary.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (0-1) AT OTTAWA REDBLACKS (0-0), Thursday, TD Place

KEEP IT GOING: All four of Ottawa’s wins last season came against Western Division opponents.

FIND THE REDZONE: In last week’s game against Montreal the Bombers didn’t produce a TD drive until their last possession of the game.

OLDER AND WISER: Ottawa has just seven first-year players and has 32 players on the roster who have played at least 30 games.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2024.

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