A grim-faced coach Tim Burke was left scrambling to replace his top receiver Wednesday after Cory Watson was injured on the last play of the week’s last practice for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Burke bit his tongue when asked to comment on the hit by safety Dan West but said even when practising at full speed, the rule is you don’t hurt your teammates.
“We’re going to have a personnel meeting right after this. That’s why you don’t hurt your own teammates on the last play of the (last) practice of the week,” he said.
“Now you’ve got to rework your game plan with no practice.”
The Bombers host the Toronto Argonauts on Friday.
Watson was going for a long ball near the sidelines and as he caught it he pushed West off. West came back with a hard push out of bounds that sent Watson tumbling.
The slotback almost hit the team’s camera and he rolled on the ground, clearly in pain, until he was helped, limping, off the field with what has initially been diagnosed as a hamstring injury.
With 215 yards so far this season, he is well ahead as the team’s leading receiver and Burke’s replacement options are few with a game so close and his injury list so long.
Chris Matthews, last year’s leading receiver and CFL top rookie, was already questionable for Friday. Veteran Terrence Edwards is still recovering from a shoulder injury.
Doug Pierce is starting and Carl Fitzgerald was already going on the roster to replace longsnapper Chris Cvetkovic, out with back issues, but Burke said everything was up in the air Wednesday.
Earlier in the week, expressing his displeasure with parts of the offence, Burke had talked of making some roster changes. But this wasn’t what he was envisioning.
“If we were going to make those roster changes they’ve all gone out the window with injuries this week and who might or might not play,” he said.
It’s a question of who is healthy enough to go in as the Bombers cope with a fairly long list of injuries for just the fourth week of the CFL season.
But Burke’s problems are magnified because Watson is also the best blocker of the receiving corps and a key to the running game.
This might even open a door for local boy Brett Carter, a Winnipeg Rifles product who the Bombers liked enough to keep around on the practice squad after camp.
“It was a downer at the end of practice,” Burke said of Watson’s injury.
“That’s not something you want to end practice on but we’ve got to regroup and there’s no excuses, we’ve got to line up and play as hard as we can play.”
The Bombers’ offence has been their weakest link this season but they’re not alone in the CFL East. In fact, they remain in a four-way tie at 1-2.
Quarterback Buck Pierce remains convinced the Bombers can turn things around.
“We’re 1-2. We’re tied for first in the East. Everybody around us wants to push panic buttons now,” he said.
“I believe it’s a long season and we’re growing and we’re making strides.”
Offensive lineman Chris Greaves agrees they have to make changes after allowing six sacks last week in Guelph against Hamilton and essentially making the same mistake twice.
“That’s unacceptable,” Greaves said after practice. “We’ve just got to make changes and we’ve got to pick up everything. That’s our job and what we get paid for and that’s what we have to do and we’re going to do it.”