He may sit on the bench but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have signed a 20-year-old junior football receiver for their game Friday night against the Toronto Argonauts.
It’s a Cinderella story for Brett Carter but also a sign of how banged up the Winnipeg receiving corps is right now.
“I can’t put it into words,” said a grinning Carter. “It’s unreal. I’m so thankful for the opportunity.”
And Bombers coach Tim Burke says Carter should be ready for anything.
“He might get his chance to get out there and play in a CFL game,” he said.
Carter will back up slotback Jade Etienne while Rory Kohlert will move from that spot to fill Cory Watson’s position. Watson is expected to be gone two-to-four weeks with a hamstring injury.
“I think Rory Kohlert will do a great job running routes,” said Burke. “We’ll have to find a different way to block . . but we’ll be fine.”
Argos coach Scott Milanovich isn’t concerned about Winnipeg’s woes.
“I’ve got my own problems,” he said. “This really is a new team.”
The Argos will be trying out a new receiver as well Friday in John Chiles.
“We’re excited to see what he can do,” said Milanovich.
There’s a lot on the line for both Winnipeg and Toronto as all four teams in the East Division head into action with underwhelming 1-2 records.
“Would we like to be 3-0, yeah,” said Argos receiver/kick-returner Chad Owens. “But we’re just going to continue to work. It’s a very long season.”
Quarterback Ricky Ray said the Argos can certainly help themselves with a win but added that won’t be easy against a Winnipeg defence that’s recorded a league-leading 18 sacks.
“You watch film and they can get after the quarterback,” he said.
The loss of Watson certainly complicates matters for the Bombers. Not only is he their leading receiver and best blocker at that position, but as a Canadian he’s also a ratio changer.
With Chris Matthews and Terrence Edwards also out, import Doug Pierce is getting another chance to start at receiver. And he’s excited about that after spending most of his year and a bit with the Bombers as a backup.
“I’ve been ready to go since last year, the end of the season, but a little extra work never hurt anybody,” he said after Thursday’s walkthrough.
Burke said he apologized to safety Dan West after re-examining his hit on Watson that injured the receiver on the final play of Wednesday’s practice. Shortly after Watson was hurt, Burke vented about West shoving the receiver out of bounds but added Thursday that Watson wasn’t without blame.
“You never should say anything until after you’ve watched the video,” Burke said. “I apologized to Dan for making him the villain. . . Cory had a part in it.
“He shouldn’t have stiff-armed Dan.”
Watson caught a long pass and stiff-armed West on the helmet before being pushed out of bounds and falling to the ground.
Carter, 20, attended Winnipeg’s training camp and appeared in both exhibition games before being released. He continued practising with the Bombers as a territorial exemption and was expecting to do so until the start of the Winnipeg Rifles’ junior season next month before signing with the CFL club.
The Bombers have been impressed with his enthusiasm and ability.
“What a great moment for him and I’m excited,” said quarterback Buck Pierce. “We’re proud of him and we know that he can play.”
Pierce says he’s excited at the prospect of facing Toronto’s defence. The unit has struggled — allowing 32 points and 162 yards rushing per game, both league highs — but Pierce is expecting an aggressive gameplan from Argos defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones.
“(Jones) wants to go out there and brawl,” he said. “My mentality coming into this game is it’s going to be a fight.
“It’s going to be a fight and I’m ready for 12 rounds of it . . . Whoever they bring, I’m going to get the ball out and I’m going to make plays when plays are available.”
Winnipeg’s defence has been solid but its offence has failed to click and Pierce admits the doubters won’t go away until that changes.
“Those question marks are still kind of floating around,” he said.