It has been a relatively surprising start to the season for Mike O'Shea and the 2-0 Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The rookie head coach has worked hard to establish a new attitude and culture in his locker room, and with the way Winnipeg has won each of their opening games to start 2014, it has leant itself to teachable moments for the heavily-rebuilt club in how to get the job done no matter the circumstances.
Their 45-21 wire-to-wire dominance over the Toronto Argonauts in Week 1, followed by an impressive 36-28 come-from-behind victory over the Ottawa Redblacks has the Blue and Gold with a pair of wins coming in wildly different fashion.
"As a coaching staff, we're supposed to teach off any result," said O'Shea. "Win. Lose. Draw. Win big. Win ugly. Lose big. Lose close. There's so much to learn from the entire film and whatever the results. It's our job to find those teaching points, those correctables, those concepts in any result."
But when your opponent scores touchdowns on their first three offensive possessions — as the Redblacks did in the franchise's first CFL game — some individuals might get down on themselves. Or turn on their teammates.
Former Bombers head coach Tim Burke often pointed to this scenario as an issue during Winnipeg's tumultuous 3-15 season in 2013.
"There might still be some guys that have said, 'Here we go again.' But we've got enough guys that are saying, 'This is no big deal,'" said O'Shea. "We're down 11 ... 11 points in a CFL game? Come on."
It was 14 points, actually, Mike. And your club showed some serious resiliency and character in gutting out a win — quite the evolution from just eight months ago.
The Bombers took another hit in the Canadian injury department this week as guard Chris Greaves sprained a ligament in his right knee during the first quarter against Ottawa and will be out a few weeks. The injury doesn't look very serious as Greaves was spotted walking around outside Investors Group Field this week with no brace or noticeable limp.
"That's a good sign, eh?" said O'Shea, who will plug-in International Cordaro Howard at Greaves' left guard spot. "(Greaves) is a tough guy. He's going to get back as soon as he possibly can. He's not going to be one to rest."
While All-Star defensive lineman Bryant Turner returns to the lineup following a week away from the team for the birth of his daughter in Alabama, fellow tackle Zach Anderson will miss the game in Montreal with a heel contusion.
"Zach Anderson would play every single day. He'd play a game every day if he could," added the head coach. "The smart thing to do with Zach is let him rest, because he would play every week and we'd be in the same spot of him probably not practicing during the week. The odd time is not a bad thing but he'd be better off if we get him healthy."
Several injured players returned to regular practice participation this week, but as was the case last week, O'Shea isn't in a rush to push any of his guys back in for the sake of upping the talent in his lineup.
"We're committed to putting the best team on the field for every game," said O'Shea, while placing paused emphasis on the word 'team.' "Sometimes it might not be the best player if the team performs better or if the group performs better with a certain mix in there. There's always a fair bit of speculation that goes into that too when you make a roster change, and how that's going to affect the total performance."
Safety Moe Leggett is listed as questionable this week with an ankle issue. Johnny Sears was taking first team reps at safety to end the practice week in Winnipeg, and it would be a safe assumption that Teague Sherman would start at Sears' strong side linebacker spot. Conveniently, this too would even out the ratio issue of starting three internationals on the O-line with Greaves out.
Notes: Cory Watson will miss a second game after re-injuring his hamstring in Week 1... The team's leading receiver Aaron Kelly (second in the CFL with 163 yards) "banged his knee" in practice this week and suffered some swelling the following day, but assures his head coach he will be ready to play in Montreal. "I expect (Kelly) to play," said O'Shea... Running back Paris Cotton is possible to return to the lineup after missing a few weeks with a knee injury. The speedster looked good returning kicks in practice alongside the CFL's Week 2 Special Teams Player of the Week Demond Washington, but don't expect Cotton to take many (if any) reps on offence away from eye-opening rookie Nic Grigsby... Cornerback Donovan Alexander, who has suffered from a calf strain since early in training camp, may make his first start since Winnipeg signed him to a free agent deal this offseason. That said, fellow national defensive back Matt Bucknor has played quite well in Alexander's absence... The football club finally put the Korey Banks saga to rest, releasing the suspended 11-year veteran in the hours leading up to kickoff against Ottawa... General manager Kyle Walters locked up a pair of heavy defensive contributors this week, inking Canadians Teague Sherman and Jake Thomas to contract extensions. Terms of the deals were not released, as per club policy.