Receiver Darvin Adams, the team’s leading receiver and only real deep threat, had his left arm in a sling.
Moe Leggett, the top playmaker on defence, had to be carried off the field, unable to put any weight on his right leg.
Never mind the Winnipeg Blue Bombers clinching a playoff spot for the second straight season.
Those injuries to two key players are the top story coming out of Saturday’s 26-20 win over the B.C. Lions.
“We’ve been healthy all year,” lamented O-lineman Stanley Bryant. “It’s just a tough time for those guys to go down right now… because Moe’s a play-maker, Darvin’s a play-maker. So it’s going to be hard to get somebody to replace those guys.
“It’s just bad luck, I guess.”
Bryant and his teammates also repeated the “next man up” mantra so common in football.
But you don’t replace an Adams or a Leggett. Not their talent or experience.
Neither looks to be playing anytime soon, although the Bombers were their usual tight-lipped selves after the game.
That leaves speculation.
Adams’ injury — he took a hard shot from B.C. defender Anthony Thompson in the first quarter – looked like a significant shoulder problem.
Of note: he missed more than half of last season with a broken collarbone on the same side.
The news on Leggett might be worse.
His leg seemed to buckle when he came down with a Lions’ attempted onside kick, and the way he clutched at the back of his lower leg, then couldn’t put any weight on it, brought back memories of Achilles tendon injuries I’ve seen over the years.
Teammates said all the right things, but reading between the lines revealed more concern than usual.
“Those are our guys, those are our leaders,” linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox said. “But as a team we’ve got to step up for them. We owe it to them to give it our best football, because they give it to us every time they step out there. We’ve got to do right by them.
“We just send prayers for them.”
The Bombers, 11-4, rebounded nicely from last week’s loss to lowly Hamilton and punched their ticket to the post-season.
That shouldn’t be overlooked.
But you can’t help but wonder if this will even be the same team that takes the field for the last three weeks, and beyond.
Head coach Mike O’Shea lauds their depth and resilience.
Those qualities are about to face their stiffest test, by far.
HARRIS LOSES HIS COOL
Another quality O’Shea lauds is discipline.
But the CFL’s least-penalized squad went off-script on a couple of occasions, Saturday.
Most notable, running back Andrew Harris losing his cool and punching Lions D-lineman Mic’hael Brooks in the mouth, or at least the facemask, in the third quarter.
The play took the Bombers, leading 14-6, out of field goal range.
“I’ve got to be smarter in those situations,” Harris said. “Frustrations were mounting… I was apologetic as soon as it happened. I can’t take our team out of field goal range, especially in tight games like that.”
Harris and the offence had their lowest output of the season (214 yards).
Trash-talking and some extra-curriculars from Brooks didn’t help.
“Just little shots and stuff under the pile,” Harris said. “He just talks a lot. Just yipping and yipping and yipping.
“No matter what happens to me, I’ve got to be able to walk away from anything.”
Even teammates were surprised at Harris losing it against his former team.
“I know he wouldn’t say there’s any vendettas there with B.C., but he probably still feels a little that way,” quarterback Matt Nichols said. “He had some bruising runs, and obviously he’ll say he got caught up a bit in the emotion. You don’t see him do that very often, and probably never see him do it again.”
Harris didn’t get an earful from his coach, but he got something just as powerful.
“He gave me a look when I came off the field,” Harris said. “I know what the stakes are in those situations.”
O’Shea said the play was quickly forgotten.
HATS OFF TO NO. 33
The Leos defence was swarming Harris all night, linebacker Micah Awe on one play delivering a head shot that knocked Harris’s helmet right off.
With the emphasis on head injury prevention, I’m not sure why that’s not automatically penalized on running backs and receivers the way it is on quarterbacks.
Nichols says the game’s nastiness reminded him of the post-season.
“It seems like once one or two people start popping off, it’s a waterfall effect and you can feel it out there,” he said. “It was a grind-it-out game.”
HUMAN WRECKING BALL
In addition to losing Leggett and Adams, the Bombers saw defensive back Brian Walker leave the game when he got the worst of a three-way collision instigated by teammate Taylor Loffler.
“I try to watch their backs,” a sombre Loffler said. “Sometimes it happens, though, the way I fly around out there. I was pretty upset with that happening. But I’m not going to change the way I play.”
Loffer was also involved in later collisions with Leggett and Winnipeg D-lineman Tristan Okpalaugo.
GET THE LICENSE NUMBER?
Nichols, playing with a glove to protect an injured finger, took some shots again, too, particularly one from B.C. Linebacker Solomon Elimimian.
“The guy hits like a truck,” Nichols said of the perennial all-star. “You try and avoid getting hit by him. It was a grinder. They made it tough on us. Everyone was out there playing through stuff, so it’s not just me.”
Nichols says his glove affected a couple throws to the flat, but nothing down-field.
Not that the Bombers tried many.
Published at Sat, 14 Oct 2017 23:38:41 -0400