Veteran defensive captain Clint Kent was one of a dozen players released Friday by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Defensive lineman Dorian Smith was also cut as CFL teams must reduce their rosters to 46 players this weekend.
“The cuts we made today should get us to our numbers,” said head coach Paul LaPolice. “The biggest decisions now are practice squad.”
He said it’s never easy to cut someone like Kent.
“He’s a good pro and a good man and I like him a lot but sometimes you have to make difficult decisions in this business,” LaPolice said.
“We just felt that the deepest position on our team is defensive back ... probably some of the best talent I’ve seen in a long time — and (with) the play of some of the young guys we think another lineup could give us the best talent on the field.”
With quarterbacks the calibre of Henry Burris starting for the Ticats and Ricky Ray for the Argos in the East Division, he said they have to field the best defence they can.
“As expected, this is a changed business across the board, throughout the league.”
Winnipeg opens the 2012 season in Vancouver next Friday in a Grey Cup rematch with the B.C. Lions.
Kent, 28, was entering his fourth CFL season and third with Winnipeg. The five-foot-nine, 201-pound linebacker was voted a team captain in 2011 in just his second year with the Bombers.
He appeared in 16 regular-season games as well as the East Division final and Grey Cup last season, finishing third on the team in tackles (56) with a career-high four sacks.
He began his CFL career with Montreal in 2006 before being released prior to the start of the 2007 season. After playing arena football with the Peoria Pirates in 2008, he spent 2009 in Finland before joining the Bombers in 2010.
Smith, a six-foot-one, 280-pound lineman, was entering his fourth season with the Bombers. He started the first six games of 2011 before missing five due to injury. Upon his return, he appeared in one more game before spending the rest of the season as a healthy scratch.
LaPolice still wasn’t ready Friday to say how his backup quarterbacks will line up.
“I just got finished watching both our (pre-season) games offensively and I’ll watch a little more ... By the first quarterback meeting (Sunday) they”ll be educated on who one, two and three is.“
He says he likes what he saw from all three — Alex Brink, Joey Elliott and Justin Goltz — in Wednesday’s 26-25 pre-season loss to the Tiger-Cats.
“Alex went in on a nice drive and took us for a touchdown, Joey at the end of the game. Justin Goltz moved us down ... You want to have guys who can lead you down the field and I thought they all did that in the last game.”
Others cuts Friday included offensive lineman Shannon Boatman — a former Toronto Argonaut — and Brendan Dunn, a native of Burlington, Ont., who Winnipeg took in the third round, 17th overall, in the 2011 CFL draft from Western.
Defensive lineman Ryan Lucas, a Vancouver native who previously spent time with Montreal and Saskatchewan, was also released.
Rookie receiver Doug Pierce, who caught a touchdown pass Wednesday, was also cut but might find himself a spot on the practice roster, the coach said.
The Bombers still don’t know for certain whether offensive lineman Glenn January will be able to start next Friday but say it looks good right now. Andre Douglas looks unlikely to start at this point.
Demond Washington left Wednesday’s game with a concussion but is also healthy enough to play, said LaPolice.