Drew Willy may have been named the CFL Offensive Player of the Week following his club's 45-21 victory over the Toronto Argonauts, but the quarterback got strong support from both his offensive line and another eye-opening surprise in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' offence. Nic Grigsby was superb in his CFL debut in Week 1, and the 25-year-old feels he's just getting started.
"As the game went on my game started to come back," said Grigsby, who ran for 122 yards on 21 carries and added a pair of catches for 17. "It got a little slower. I still got a lot of stuff to get better on — just some little things and detail that coaches got on me about to be a better player and have a better game."
The Bombers' O-line opened up some wide lanes in the run game against the Argos. Winnipeg's young tailback has history with one lineman in particular, who pulled from the right tackle spot to be the lead blocker on a couple big Grigsby gains up the middle.
"Me and (Dan) Knapp, we went a long way (back)," said the University of Arizona product of his new favourite blocker. "We played against each other in college. He went to Arizona State, my rival, so when we got here in camp we bumped heads a little bit — not bumped heads — but just, you know, the rivalry-type stuff. But now we're on the same team. We're in the same boat, and he's pulling for me and everything. I love them guys up front."
The head coach isn't taken aback by Grigsby's impressive debut in the slightest.
"Nope, didn't surprise me. He's been steadily getting better all the way through camp," said Mike O'Shea. "My concern maybe early on was, he might not have taken advantage of every hole that was there, and now he's through it. It was just a matter of him getting comfortable with his vision, with his reads, and the CFL field — the size of it, I think. But he's done well."
O'Shea is enamoured by Grigsby's ability to adapt and pick things up quickly. That goes double when you're protecting a lead late in the game.
"One of the things that's impressive is, when we're running that last three minutes and we have the ball and you're asking a guy to stay in bounds and slide, you know? For years and years and years American tailbacks come up here, they get in their first game and run out of bounds when we want that clock to run. You tell them and they still do it. But right away, I tell (Grigsby) once, he was sliding in bounds all the time making sure that clock kept running. Obviously he's an intelligent football player and took that instruction, basically in a three-second conversation, and applied it."
With running back Will Ford still working to get back into game shape after a hamstring pull, and Paris Cotton out for a few weeks with a knee injury (he's been wearing a heavy brace in light on-field workouts during practice), Grigsby's fight to stay healthy enough to play has also impressed the coaching staff.
"It's as good as it's going to get right now," scoffed Grigsby playfully. "Everybody is banged-up and bruised. Nobody's at 100 per cent, I don't care who you are, (even) if you're a quarterback. It's day-to-day of getting better. Get your body in the cold tub, getting the therapy, and come ready to play.
"You know you've got to be durable in this league. It's all about growing and depending on yourself to actually do the extra little things that's going to keep you on the field."
This week sees another challenge, in that the Blue Bombers will try to prepare for their Week 2 opponent — the expansion Ottawa Redblacks — having minimal game film to study. Ottawa had a bye in Week 1.
"We're going out there blind to the eye other than what the base preseason games are. And a lot of teams keep preseason really base," said Grigsby of the "vanilla" offence the Redblacks have shown. "Our coaching staff did a great job putting (video) cut-ups of the (Redblacks) coaches that they have now and what they did in the past, so we're going to use that to our ability. Come game time there is that adjust-on-the-fly and be ready to go."
Eleven-year CFL veteran Korey Banks asked the team for his release this week after not securing a job in the team's starting lineup. The club has placed him on the suspended list indefinitely and flown him home to Atlanta... Mike O'Shea says he doesn't want to tinker too much with a lineup that looked pretty solid in Week 1. National cornerback Donovan Alexander may be ready to return following a calf injury, but Matt Bucknor will continue to start at field corner... Tailback Will Ford (hamstring) may be ready to go as well after missing both preseason games, but Nic Grigsby will start with the ball... Defensive backs Alex Suber (hamstring) and Marty Markett (high-ankle sprain) both still need time to recover and are again out this week... Slotback Cory Watson suffered a hamstring injury in the first half Thursday night and didn't return to the game. The 30-year-old will miss a week, at least, and it appears fellow national receiver Julian Feoli-Gudino, who hauled in a touchdown pass in Watson's second half absence, will start in his place... Defensive tackle Zach Anderson has missed some significant practice time this week with a heel contusion. O'Shea says he should be ready for the game... Another defensive tackle, Bryant Turner, has been excused from practice this week for the birth of his daughter. The 2013 Eastern All-Star is expected to play against Ottawa. If either Turner or Anderson are unable to go Thursday night, Kashawn Fraser is an option to come off the practice roster and dress.