WINNIPEG – After two frustrating seasons when injuries limited his playing time, Canadian slotback Cory Watson is hoping this is the year he delivers on the promise that made him the Winnipeg Blue Bombers top draft pick in 2010.
“It is frustrating,” he said Thursday at a little meet-and-greet organized by the Bombers, which also featured some of their most prominent newcomers this season.
Watson missed eight regular season games in 2012 and nine last season and says he was disappointed in himself.
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“I will try to make up for those lost games,” he said.
At the same time, the native of Dollard des Ormeaux, Que., who turns 30 next week, insists he won’t change the way he plays to avoid injury. That aggressive style has been cited as a big contributing factor to his lack of durability.
“When you’re going hard sometimes accidents happen,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to change the way I play … I’ve just got to make sure I take care of my body.”
He was joined at a still snow-covered Investors Group Field by Drew Willy, set to be Winnipeg’s starting quarterback in 2014, receiver Nick Moore and defensive back Korey Banks.
Willy is making his debut as a starter this season after a backup role in Regina last season, while Moore and Banks were both B.C. Lions free agents.
The Bombers’ offence will definitely take on a new look this season.
Besides Willy behind centre, veteran receiver Terrence Edwards is hanging up his cleats and 2012 rookie-of-the-year Chris Matthews landed a job in the NFL. Not that Matthews was much of a factor last season, as injuries limited him to 14 catches, 138 yards and one touchdown.
Willy is being reunited with old friend Moore, the third leading receiver in the CFL last season and the Lions’ top pass catcher. Their relationship goes back to their college days, although they played for different schools in the same MAC conference — Moore at Toledo and Willy at Buffalo.
“We came out for the NFL draft at the same time, we worked out at the same facility and we’ve kept in touch over the years,” said Willy. “We picked up in the airport yesterday in Minneapolis like time hadn’t passed.”
Moore said it seems like this was meant to be.
“I definitely think that people come into your life for a reason,” he said.
Watson also says he looks forward to playing with his new quarterback, if that brings the success the Bombers so desperately need.
“Most importantly I’m looking forward to winning. However that happens I’m fully down for that.”
His best season so far was 2011, when he caught 69 passes for 793 yards and one touchdown.
Job one right now for the Bombers is trying to lure back grumpy season ticket holders, after a frustrating 2013 campaign for fans asked to pay higher ticket prices to watch a team that floundered behind a series of struggling quarterbacks, won only three games and missed the playoffs.
Team president Garth Buchko, general manager Joe Mack and coach Tim Burke all paid with their jobs.
The Bombers have to pay the mortgage on their year-old $200-million stadium and struck out in a bid to land a proven starting quarterback such as Henry Burris, something that might have encouraged fans to believe 2014 wasn’t going to be a case of rinse and repeat.
While new head coach Mike O’Shea may be high on Willy’s potential, the signing of proven talent like Banks and Moore doesn’t hurt.
Although Banks will turn 35 this season, the four-time CFL all-star says he is still ready to play and will be the first to admit when he can no longer compete at an elite level.
“When I can’t do it any more and compete at a high level I’ll walk away. I’m not going to let a coach tell me ‘This is it son’ and pat me on the back. I’ll know before they know.”
He also dismissed B.C. general manager Wally Buono’s suggestion he was cut loose after eight seasons because he wasn’t able to keep up with young running backs like former Saskatchewan Roughrider Kory Sheets, not that Sheets is personally an issue now that he’s also in the NFL.
“Even if that is true, and I beg to differ, this is passing league,” said Banks.
©2014The Canadian Press