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Fallout from Bombers-Riders brawl still to come

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The CFL is looking into the Banjo Bowl brawl between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday.

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Possible disciplinary action could still come to players on either side.

“We’re waiting to hear,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said as his team returned to practice, Tuesday.

O’Shea wasn’t thrilled with the melee right after the game, a 33-9 Winnipeg win, and he hadn’t changed his tune after watching film of it the league sent to him.

“It’s really hard to tell exactly what started it,” he said. “The little off-shoot piles, you can see how those go. But the initial flareup, who knows? I do recognize players want to make sure their teammates are safe. At certain times you can just grab your own teammate and usher him away. When you grab the opposition it’s just asking for another flareup… I try and get my guys to grab their own guy and take him with them, but it doesn’t always work.”

The one who got away with an unnecessary roughness penalty when he could have been thrown out – two Riders were tossed, but no Bombers – was running back Andrew Harris.

Harris ripped the helmet off Saskatchewan’s Christian Campbell after seeing teammate Nic Demski in the middle of extracurriculars.

“We were celebrating (a touchdown) and I turned around, and obviously any teammate I’m going to want to stand up, but Demski’s a pretty close buddy of mine off the field, as well,” Harris said. “And I saw him getting tossed, so I’m always going to defend my teammates. Maybe I took it a little far, but it is what it is, man. Things flare up, tensions rise and things happen.”

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At first, based on the referee’s announcement, Harris thought he was thrown out.

He saw the outrage on social media, mainly from Riders fans, over the fact he wasn’t.

He’s since been asked by the league to explain his actions.

“We did get an e-mail just giving our stance on the whole situation,” he said. “There’s a few guys involved in that. I’m sure we’ll hear in the next little while here what’s going to happen from it.”

It’s doubtful any suspensions would come, but entirely possible Harris and/or others are fined.

Regardless, Harris doesn’t sound like someone who’d be completely passive if the same thing happened again.

“If anything it just shows that we have each other’s backs. We talk about that all the time, being there for each other. When I see a teammate being tossed, I’m not just going to stand there and watch.”

More to come

Harris had another solid game, with 80 yards rushing, as the league-leading Bombers improved to 5-1.

But his longest carry this season has been just 20 yards, and he’s left feeling it’s still a work in progress, individually and for the offence.

“We have a lot more to get out of each game and each play,” he said. “We need to finish better and sustain drives a lot better. We still haven’t reached our peak at all, yet. Maybe I’m not on the right side of the edge of a cut, and I’m getting arm tackled. I want to reach perfection or damn near close to it on every play.”

Winnipeg Blue Bombers RB Andrew Harris finds a hole against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers RB Andrew Harris finds a hole against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Photo by KEVIN KING /Winnipeg Sun

One glaring difference in the offence so far is the lack of balls going to Harris through the air: he’s caught just five passes.

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“It’s definitely something that we’re always working on and it’s a big part of my game,” he said. “And running backs releasing out of the backfield, there’s always that extra element for check-downs or if you can create mismatches or opportunities… but it hasn’t happened, yet. I’m sure we’ll be getting to more of that down the line, here.”

Triple-E

In a quirk of the schedule, three of Winnipeg’s next four games are against Edmonton (2-3), beginning Saturday in Alberta.

“I immediately think back to before our playoff run,” O-lineman Drew Desjarlais said. “We played Calgary back-to-back and then we played them first round of the playoffs. I’m assuming it’s going to be a similar thing. You get to really figure out your opponent and it just ends up being a battle for the next two out of three. Kind of looking forward to it.”

Offensive lineman Drew Desjarlais (right) during Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021.
Offensive lineman Drew Desjarlais (right) during Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. Photo by KEVIN KING /Winnipeg Sun

The Bombers dropped that first one in Calgary in 2019, then beat the Stamps in the regular-season finale and the West Semifinal on their way to winning the Grey Cup.

Harris isn’t thrilled with the idea of playing the Elks with the same frequency.

“It’s definitely not an ideal thing,” he said. “We’ve got to face it. They’ve got some young guys that I’m not really sure about who they are. After that first game you’ll get a better bead on how they are and how they play… and then hopefully we can build off that going into Game 2 and 3.”

Ol’ lefty

O’Shea ended Tuesday’s practice in the back of the north end zone, punting balls back to the field-goal kickers.

“Everybody was stretching and we had nobody shagging,” the coach said. “So I was the shagger. And I was punting them all back. I threw my back out, my quad’s sore, the top of my foot’s killing me. So I’m going to hit the ice tub.

“Once everybody leaves, of course. I don’t go in the ice tub when they’re in there. It’s embarrassing.”

pfriesen@postmedia.com

Twitter: @friesensunmedia

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