Former Bombers loved their time in Winnipeg but are now looking to bring old teammates down
OTTAWA — There was a common theme in the words of three former Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday as they prepared for a game against their old team.
It was one of appreciation.
Quarterback Dom Davis, cornerback Chris Randle and kicker returner/receiver Ryan Lankford will all face the Bombers for the first time as members of the Ottawa Redblacks on Friday night at TD Place.
Randle and Lankford were with the Bombers last year, while Davis was a backup quarterback in Winnipeg from 2015-2017.
“That whole organization taught me everything I know now,” said Davis, who beat out Jonathon Jennings for the starting quarterback job this season. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for (offensive co-ordinator) Paul LaPolice, (quarterbacks coach) Buck Pierce and (head coach) Mike O’Shea.”
Randle was released by the Bombers in January after five years in Winnipeg.
He doesn’t sound bitter about it, although he admits he was surprised when he got a call from O’Shea telling him he’d been released.
Like Davis, Randle was thankful for what he experienced in Winnipeg, even though it didn’t include a championship.
“I think it was an awesome journey and the growth I had over the years there, I feel like that’s still with me,” Randle said. “The journey that I went through, the journey that we went on last season and ended one game short … I think that journey built me into the character that I have and the player I am.”
Lankford spent two seasons as the Bombers’ on-again, off-again kick returner, but he didn’t see much time at receiver, and last year his playing time dwindled to just four games.
The writing was clearly on the wall when the season ended and Lankford signed with Ottawa as soon as the CFL free agency period began.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing,” the 27-year-old Lankford said. “I really loved it, I really learned a lot from a receiver standpoint. LaPo really helped me develop my game, understanding how to run routes and how to use my speed to advantage and leverage.”
That Randle and Lankford found homes quickly is less surprising than Davis winning the starting quarterback job with the Redblacks.
He’s got a big arm and is mobile, but rarely showed much in his opportunities while with the Bombers. His Redblacks have a 2-0 record so far and, after a slow start in Week 1 against Calgary (four interceptions), Davis really seemed to find his groove in Week 2 vs. Saskatchewan, throwing for 354 yards and three touchdowns.
Davis only needs to look at the other bench Friday night to see another one of the people he credits with moulding him into a starter.
“Matt Nichols is the best quarterback I’ve seen as far as processing information in the game,” Davis said. “That’s something I try to take away and put into my game.”
The Bombers, who will be without star middle linebacker Adam Bighill (lower body injury), will have to contend with the mobility of Davis along with an ability to throw the ball deep.
“The thing about him is he’s a really good thrower and pocket passer who has the ability to run,” Redblacks coach Rick Campbell said. “He understands what we’re doing really well, he knows the terminology and has a good command of the offence. There’s also a good comfort with the rest of the guys on offence, of how well he understands what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do and that’s not a bad assessment.”
Davis was a free agent after last season but he chose to return to the Redblacks once he and the organization realized 2018 starter Trevor Harris was likely to leave through free agency.
“They just told me they wanted me to come in and compete to be the starter,” Davis said. “That’s what I was gonna do, going to another team in free agency, possibly. If I can do that here, with the team I was just on, it’s perfect.”
Davis and Randle actually signed with the Redblacks on the same day in January.
Randle signed just a couple of weeks after getting abruptly released.
“Honestly I was surprised,” the 31-year-old said. (O’Shea called me and I thought it was a normal off-season call. But he spoke to me and he told me directly what it was and I took it for what he told me. It was a business decision.
“He called me again when I signed with Ottawa and congratulated me. No hard feelings.”
There might be some hard feelings from the Bombers if those three players come back to haunt them, but you get the sense some of their former teammates are pulling for Davis, Randle and Lankford.
“I always hope the best for Dom,” Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols. “Probably not the best (Friday) night, but I’m proud of him and what he’s doing right now.
“I know all those guys really well, but I’ve played against a lot of former teammates and once you hit the field, it’s nameless faces.”
Randle looking forward to challenge of covering former teammate Adams
Chris Randle covered Darvin Adams enough times in practice to know what he’s in for on Friday night.
What he expects is a big challenge and a bit of one-sided trash talk.
“Oh man, I ain’t got nothing to say to him,” Randle said Thursday. “He’ll say enough to try to get in my head.
“I know what type of player he is. I know the mindset he’s bringing. The respect I have for him is to the utmost and I know what he’s capable of doing. Matching what he’s bringing, if not exceeding this, is what my goal is.”
Randle said the hardest part of getting released by the Bombers was leaving the friendships that he made in the locker room.
“Those relationships, I think that was the hardest part, more so than the actual occurrence of getting released,” he said.
“I don’t think they go anywhere though. Once you do the sweat, blood and tears with those guys, I don’t think the relationship ever goes anywhere.”
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