‘I need some carries’: Brady Oliveira believes more touches would have led to ‘different outcome’ for winless Bombers

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The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are languishing at 0-3 for the first time since 2012 but running back Brady Oliveira believes that record would be different if the team simply put the ball in his hands.

“Guys that want to make plays need to get opportunities. I’ve always said, and everyone knows this, that the more touches I get, the better I go and this team feels that,” the Canadian back told the Winnipeg media earlier this week.

“When you’re only limited to a couple of carries, it sucks because if I had a larger role, I think it might have been a different outcome for my teammates.”

The 2024 campaign has been a challenging one thus far for Oliveira, who missed all of training camp with a nagging knee injury. That ailment left him unable to finish a disappointing performance in the season-opener against Montreal and forced him out of the lineup the following week versus Ottawa.

Week 3 was supposed to be his triumphant return but the Bombers were cautious with their top back, listing him as a back-up behind Johnny Augustine. Oliveira struggled to hide his disdain for that decision but produced on his limited touches, rumbling 64 yards on nine carries. It still wasn’t enough to secure victory over the rival B.C. Lions and the days since have not dulled the running back’s sense that he could have done more.

“I know what I can do. I know what I’m capable of. I’ve shown my teammates, my coaches. I’ve shown the league what I can do, and I personally think when I step on that field, I bring a spark to this team. I bring a spark to my teammates and I think I made that known last week,” the Winnipeg native said.

“At the end of the day, whatever I need to do to help this team win, I’m willing to do but I do believe that I need some carries. I think I need to get back to that workload. You can rely on me, I’m built for this. I’m built to get 15 to 20 touches a game or more if needed.”

Oliveira was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian last season after rushing for 1,534 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 38 receptions for 482 yards and four touchdowns through the air. He became only the fifteenth player in CFL history to finish a season with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and was selected as a league all-star as a result.

Throughout his historic campaign, the two-time thousand-yard rusher averaged more than 16.5 touches per game. Through two games this year, he’s getting just 11.5 — a full touch less than even his first season as the starter in 2022. As was the case last week, head coach Mike O’Shea doesn’t seem to be on the same page with his best remaining offensive weapon regarding what exactly the team needs.

“What we need is for guys to make the play when it comes their way,” he said, dismissing any suggestion that the team’s marquee names should be more involved. “We need them to do their jobs in all three phases. If you start going outside of the system, trying to do more and make plays and do something outside of the system, it doesn’t really work very well.”

“If they happen to make a spectacular tackle that it didn’t look like they were going to make after doing their job or a guy makes a spectacular catch that people didn’t think he was gonna make, that’s awesome. That’s good for your teammates, that’s pro football. But while that is going on, everybody needs to stick to the script.”

Oliveira has tried valiantly to read his lines in front of the media, insisting over and over again that he is excited for the future and that he’ll do whatever his coaches ask. It’s been a poor acting job, as the bruising ball-carrier struggles to come to grips with his current role in the losing skid.

“I feel like it’s letting down my teammates. I feel like by me not being there for them, I’m letting them down,” he admitted.

After practicing without restrictions for the first time all year, it feels like Week 4 could finally be Oliveira’s moment to break the slump. But despite the absence of top receivers Kenny Lawler and Dalton Schoen — the latter for the remainder of the season — O’Shea doesn’t see any reason to lock in on the ground game.

“I think the way we’ve worked for the last pile of years is pretty simple; it’s whatever the game dictates,” he insisted. “We go in with a big call sheet that covers every situation or scenario and what defences are going to bring, and then as the game unfolds, sometimes no matter what you absolutely want to do, it’s 180 degrees from what you’re doing.”

“We want to dictate to the defence and pound the ball, but if some team’s gonna load the box up completely, we’re not gonna forfeit a win because our plan said, ‘Here’s what we want to do.'”

Unfortunately for Winnipeg, they’ve been forfeiting those wins anyway and are staring down the end of a dynasty. Oliveira believes there is a plan that can save them, but it requires placing the ball back in his arms.

“What everyone wants to see is us pounding guys in the run game and we did that so many times last season. I know we can do it this year. We have so many great guys in this locker room who have been a part of that and can get the job done,” he said.

“It’s just that you need opportunities to get back to that. I think eight, nine, 10 opportunities isn’t going to allow you to get into a rhythm.”

The Bombers (0-3) will visit the Calgary Stampeders (1-1) on Saturday, June 29 with kickoff slated for 7:00 p.m. EDT.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.