Andrew Harris defends role in brawl: ‘When I see a teammate getting tossed around I’m not just going to stand there and watch’

Photo courtesy: CFL

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are dealing with the aftermath of a late first-half brawl that took place in the Banjo Bowl on Saturday against the rival Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Veteran running back Andrew Harris spoke to the media on Tuesday, saying he felt the altercation showed how well he and his teammates support each other.

“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 getting tossed around I’m not just going to stand there and watch,” said Harris, who was penalized after pulling an opponent to the ground by his facemask.

“It’s just how you handle yourself in that situation once you get there. Tensions rise and flare and things get a little crazy, but if anything I think it just showed that we care about each other and we’ve got each other’s back.”

Saskatchewan’s Garrett Marino and A.J. Hendy were ejected from the game due to rough play disqualification. Three members of the Blue Bombers were penalized for roughing, though they were each permitted to remain in the game.

“I’m always going to go and defend my teammates,” said Harris. “Obviously, maybe took it a little far but it is what it is. Things flare up and tension rise and things happen. It’s over with now and we’re just looking forward to putting it behind us.”

O’Shea was not happy about the brawl after the game, saying he consistently reminds players to maintain their composure and avoid taking penalties that will hurt the team. He wants to see players diffuse tension on the field rather than add fuel to the fire.

“I do recognize that players want to make sure their teammates are safe. I do think that at certain times you can just grab your own teammate and usher him away,” said O’Shea.

“When you grab the opposition, it’s just asking for another flare up, whereas if you grab your own guy, it calms down a little sooner. I try to get my guys to grab their own guy and take them with them but it doesn’t always work.”

O’Shea said the league has been in contact regarding the brawl, though the team has yet to receive official confirmation of any supplementary discipline that will be applied. He acquired footage of the altercation from the CFL but was unable to determine how the initial brawl started.

“Sometimes the footage is broken. It’s not a continuous feed,” he said. “It’s really hard to tell exactly what started it. The offshoot piles, you can see how those go, but the actual initial flare up? Who knows.”

O’Shea preaches playing clean football and minimizing the type of mistakes that can provide the opposition with any type of advantage.

“We spend a lot of time looking over penalties, making sure we understand what is and what isn’t a penalty,” he said. “We talk a lot about how clean a game you need to play to be successful. It’s one of the things that we need to do as a team or else we won’t be successful. That’s ball security also, but penalties for sure, execution, assignment stuff — those all sort of fall into that category.”

It’s possible that some members of the Blue Bombers will be subjected to fines, though suspensions seem unlikely. Regardless, O’Shea is ready to move on from the incident and focus on the team’s upcoming game against the Edmonton Elks.

“It happened,” he said. “We’re passed it and we’re on to the next.”

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.