Janarion Grant, Steven Richardson could be back for Bombers vs. Lions

Photo courtesy: CFL

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers could have return specialist Janarion Grant and defensive tackle Steven Richardson back in the lineup on Friday vs. the B.C. Lions.

Both players recently completed stints on the six-game injured list after going down in the club’s Week 1 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“It’s a big boost,” said defensive back Nick Taylor regarding the number of players potentially coming back from injury this week. “Those guys have been working the whole time in the training room trying to get back as soon as possible. To see those guys out there, they bring a whole other energy. Practice was a little ramped up because everybody got a little boost from those guys.”

“We’re 6-1 without them. That’s big, but everybody knows the key to the CFL or any football is injuries. If we’re getting people back and we can keep everybody healthy, that’ll be a big win for us as a whole team to keep going and finish strong.”

Grant and Richardson both said they would be ready to play on Friday if called upon. The former indicated that he suffered a leg injury when an opponent landed on him in Week 1, while the latter suffered a partially torn plantar fascia ligament in his foot.

Veteran linebacker Kyrie Wilson was also reportedly back practicing on Monday, though he did not speak to the media. He has been out all season due to a thigh injury with Jontrell Rocquemore and Jesse Briggs taking over his starting role at weak-side linebacker.

Head coach Mike O’Shea did not confirm that any players will be coming off the injured list this week, suggesting the team needs to see how the injuries respond to Monday’s practice session.

“They ran around today, we’ll see what they feel like tomorrow when they show up,” said O’Shea. “Some of these guys have been rehabbing for quite some time and I know that they’re very excited and their teammates are pretty excited to see them out there.”

Grant had one of the most memorable debuts in the recent history of the CFL when he returned seven punts for 222 yards and two touchdowns in August 2019. Winnipeg’s return game has stalled during his absence, ranking sixth in average punt return (8.1 yards) and fifth in average kickoff return (19.8 yards).

O’Shea identified the return game as the area in which he’d like to see the most improvement in the second half of the season. He also suggested that the issues in the return game have been primarily due to blocking and scheme rather than the returners themselves.

“We need to generate better field position for our offence. I think our coverage units are doing well, we just need to make sure we have better sustained blocking and a clearer picture for the returners,” said O’Shea.

“It doesn’t matter which returner is back there, if we don’t give them a cleaner picture to look at, I don’t know what changing the returner would do.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.