BOMBSHELLS: Whitehead could fit the bill for Bombers in search for high-end kick returner
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers hope to improve a significant part of their game, which was lacking last season, by having a designated international kick returner in 2019.
Lucky Whitehead believes he is just the man for the job.
“I would love to be that guy and definitely I think I can,” Whitehead said at the conclusion of the team’s CFL rookie camp on Friday.
“I’m excited for that chance. I’m looking forward to the pre-season games just to show what I can do.”
Whitehead has shown what he can do before.
He played 30 games in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and put up 1,151 return yards. He also saw some time at receiver and caught nine passes for 64 yards, while accumulating another 189 yards along the ground.
He’s certainly a speedster with big-play potential.
“With all this field and all this space, it’s just amazing,” Whitehead said. “With my speed, I know I can do some special things. It’s crazy that you can kick on one side and literally take it 50 yards across to the other side of the field. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity and I can’t wait.”
Though there’s no much opportunity for a kick returner to show his stuff in a rookie camp, Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said some of Whitehead’s attributes are obvious.
“He’s very fast,” O’Shea said. “He’s an electric guy. Even from a standstill he can cover a lot of ground in a hurry. He seems to catch the ball well. We haven’t really put him in a return situation. That won’t happen until the preseason games.”
Whitehead is expected to compete with Charles Nelson for the main kick returning duties, while defensive back Mike Jones and receiver Tim Wilson were also in the mix during rookie camp.
After being on six NFL rosters over the last four years, Rasheed Bailey has learned a thing or two about training camp competition.
The No. 1 lesson: It’s not about the players around you, just the player within you.
“To be honest, it’s just me out here,” Bailey said. “When you’ve been through all the things that I’ve been through, you learn to just block everything else out and just play football.
“Competition? I’m in competition with myself and when you’re competing with yourself, you’re undefeated. You just keep rolling, go with the punches and be true to yourself.”
Bailey was a standout at the Bombers mini-camp last month in Florida, but the 25-year-old has a lot of other receivers to contend with before he gets a shot to play in the CFL. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver should be in the mix for a spot on the team, along with returnees Kenbrell Thompkins and Corey Washington and fellow newcomers Matt Hazel, Garrett Johnson, Josh Stewart and Kenny Lawler.
FROM DOWN MEXICO WAY
Manuel Hernandez-Reyes has come a long way to try to make it as a linebacker with the Bombers.
One of the team’s draft picks from the inaugural Mexican draft, Hernandez-Reyes is in a new country, dealing with a new language and experiencing a new high level of football.
“It’s very difficult, the training is much harder than Mexico,” Hernandez-Reyes said after rookie camp wrapped up Friday.
“Here is very fast everywhere. The O-line, the D-line, everywhere, every play in the camp.”
Under the new CBA between the league and the players, the Bombers will get to keep one global player on the roster and it seems most likely that player will be a linebacker who can play special teams.
That means it will most likely be German Thiadric Hansen or Hernandez-Reyes who makes the team. Hernandez-Reyes likes his chances.
“I have worked for this, to be on the team and on the final roster and then see what happens,” he said.
“I’m very happy and very excited to be here.”
THUMBS UP FROM INTERN
Sawyer Buettner is with the Blue Bombers as part of the new Canadian quarterbacks internship program and he’s loving every minute of the experience.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Buettner said Friday.
“I’m in a quarterback room with (quarterbacks coach) Buck Pierce and a bunch of good quarterbacks to learn from and (offensive co-ordinator) Paul LaPolice, who has been in the league for a long time.
“I wanted to learn one thing a day and I’ve been learning a thousand things every day, so it’s been awesome.”
Buettner is from Moose Jaw, Sask., but plays quarterback for the Ottawa Gee Gees.
He’s one of nine Canadian QBs participating in the program this year, one with each CFL team.
“They’re creating more opportunities for Canadian quarterbacks, which I think is great and it’s huge for the league,” he said. “This initiative is a big thing. The more Canadian quarterbacks we can get in this position to learn every year, somebody is gonna break through. It’s gonna be big for Canadian kids who want to play this position professionally.”
Malik Richards, who the Bombers selected in the fifth round of the draft earlier this month and who signed a contract just Wednesday morning, was released Friday after he suffered a significant injury on the first day of rookie camp. He was replaced on the roster by University of Manitoba receiver Dylan Schrot … The Bombers signed first-round draft pick (fifth overall) Jonathan Kongbo on Friday. The 6-foot-5, 255-poound defensive end from Tennessee could eventually be ratio-breaker for the Bombers, but he’s still recovering from surgery for a torn ACL. Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said he will be evaluated by team doctors Saturday to see if anything has changed from an original timeline that would have had him ready to return in mid-June to mid-July.