QB Collaros sidelined with injury as 0-4 Bombers take on Ottawa Redblacks

Chris Streveler will make his first start in almost five years, but the Blue Bombers quarterback isn’t feeling any nerves as the team continues to seek its first win of the season.

Streveler replaces Zach Collaros, whom Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea said won’t dress for Friday’s home game against the Ottawa Redblacks (2-1) because of a thorax injury. He is “close” to being ready, but Terry Wilson will be the backup.

“The temptation when the guys dress is to run in there,” O’Shea said with a laugh after Thursday’s walk-through practice. “So I’ll take that temptation away from him.”

Streveler is excited to make his first start since Oct. 19, 2019. Winnipeg had acquired Collaros in a trade with the Toronto Argonauts 10 days earlier.

“I just really have an appreciation for these opportunities, for these moments,” Streveler said. “Honestly, every day I get to put the pads on I just take a moment and feel thankful for getting to play this game. It’s not an opportunity I take lightly.”

A quarterback prepares to throw the football.
‘I just really have an appreciation for these opportunities, for these moments,’ says Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler, seen here in a 2019 file photo. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Collaros was hit in the chest area by Stampeders defensive tackle Josiah Coatney late in the first half of Winnipeg’s 22-19 overtime loss last Saturday in Calgary. It dropped the Bombers to 0-4 for the first time since 2012.

Streveler had thrown Winnipeg’s first touchdown pass of the season, a 16-yard strike to Drew Wolitarsky that tied the game 19-19 with 37 seconds left in regulation.

On Winnipeg’s first possession of overtime, Streveler was hit while attempting a pass to Nic Demski in the end zone and the ball was picked off by Stampeders defensive back Demerio Houston. Rene Paredes then booted a 52-yard field goal for the Calgary victory.

Streveler, who was 4-8 as Winnipeg’s starter over two seasons, headed south after he and Collaros teamed up to help the Bombers capture the 2019 Grey Cup. He spent four years in the NFL in minor roles.

When he signed with Winnipeg earlier this year, teammates and fans welcomed back his high-energy, bruising style of play.

Different styles

Wolitarsky knows Collaros and Streveler have different personalities and styles, but he has confidence in both their skillsets.

“I always describe Zach as kind of big uncle, Greek mobster,” Wolitarsky said. “He’s going to take care of business, but he’s going to do it quietly.

“Strev is definitely an extrovert to the max. Energy guy, bringing guys up, taking hits, delivering hits. He’s going to be active in that sense.”

He does hope, though, that Streveler dials it back a bit.

“I’m sure we’re going to be saying, ‘Hey buddy, maybe use the slide a little bit, not headfirst this time,”‘ Wolitarsky said with a smile.

A football taps another football player's head as he holds a football.
Streveler, celebrating a touchdown in this 2019 photo, is ‘an extrovert to the max,’ says teammate Drew Wolitarsky. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Streveler promises he’ll be smart.

“I play the game the way that I play it, but I do understand when I’m playing a full game it’s not quite the same as when I’m getting eight carries and a wedge,” he said.

“So there’s an element of being smart at times. But again, I play the game the way that I play it and I’m not going to change that no matter what.”

7-game losing streak on road

The Redblacks, whose plane was diverted to Brandon, Man., Thursday afternoon because of bad weather in Winnipeg, already defeated the Bombers 23-19 on June 13.

It’s the first time Ottawa has started a season 2-1 since 2019, but both wins have been at home. The Redblacks are currently on a seven-game losing streak on the road.

A football quarterback gets ready to throw the ball during a game.
Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Dru Brown, seen here in action on June 30, 2024, spent the previous three seasons as a backup with the Bombers before being traded to the Redblacks in January. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Ottawa starting quarterback Dru Brown may get a mixed reaction from Winnipeg fans. Brown spent the previous three seasons as a backup with the Bombers before being traded to the Redblacks in January and then signed to a two-year deal before he became a free agent.

Running back Ryquell Armstead has been a bright spot in Ottawa’s offence. He ranks fifth in the league with a 5.4-yard per carry average through three games after rushing 172 yards on 32 carries.

Bombers middle linebacker Adam Bighill hopes the defence will give Streveler more time on the field to excel.

“I know Strev is prepared for his opportunity to come out here and do what he’s done,” Bighill said. “I’m excited for him, excited for the offence. On defence, and as the rest of the team onlooking, we’re pumped for it.”