‘I’m hopeful it won’t be the full six’: Bombers’ head coach Mike O’Shea optimistic about Adam Bighill’s injury

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers added veteran Adam Bighill to the six-game injured list on Wednesday, but head coach Mike O’Shea is cautiously optimistic that the future Hall of Fame linebacker might return to action earlier than expected.

“I don’t know that he’ll be on the full six (games), it’s just one of those things you have to do to manage the business properly,” O’Shea told the media after Thursday’s practice. “I’m hopeful that it won’t be the full six, but we’ll see.”

The team is expected to turn a pair of veterans in Kyrie Wilson and Shayne Gauthier until Bighill returns. Malik Clements started the only game Bighill missed this past season, though he wasn’t retained in free agency.

Wilson has been with Winnipeg since 2017 with his best season coming in 2019 when he registered 63 defensive tackles, four special teams tackles, three sacks, and one interception. Gauthier is another long-serving Blue Bomber, joining the club in 2016. He has suited up in 87 games, amassing 49 defensive tackles, 57 special teams tackles, two sacks, and one forced fumble.

“How do you replace Adam Bighill? Well, no one’s Adam Bighill and they shouldn’t want to be,” O’Shea said. “They want to be like him, but they have to be themselves, right? As a leader on a team, authenticity is important for Kyrie to lead in his own way and Shayne to lead in his own way. That’s all they can do, that’s all you really want them to do.”

“Biggie’s going to put in as much work as he possibly can to help his teammates through this time and we’ll be good.”

Bighill’s injury woes have continued since he suffered a partially torn calf in last year’s West Final against the B.C. Lions. He suited up for the 110th Grey Cup despite the injury but registered only one defensive tackle in a 28-24 loss to the Montreal Alouettes.

When healthy, the 35-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down. He produced 74 defensive tackles, four sacks, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in 17 games last season. The six-time league all-star has totalled 891 career tackles, 49 sacks, 15 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles, and one touchdown over his 11-year CFL career.

Winnipeg will travel to Regina for their first of two preseason games on May 20, and will wrap up the exhibition schedule on May 31 against Calgary.

The Blue Bombers will open the regular season on Thursday, June 6 in a Grey Cup rematch against the Montreal Alouettes at Princess Auto Stadium.