The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are determined to give linebacker Adam Bighill and receiver Dalton Schoen every possible chance to play in the Grey Cup.
Bighill and Schoen were listed as game-time decisions by the Blue Bombers on Saturday, a day before they face the Montreal Alouettes for the CFL championship.
Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea said the two-star players deserve the opportunity to get healthy before the big game.
“We’ll give them every minute possible,” said O’Shea. “Whatever the league mandate is that we have to have that thing finalized we’ll use right up until the last-ditch second.”
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Schoen, a sophomore receiver, has missed Winnipeg’s last three games with an ankle injury. Bighill played in the Bombers’ 24-13 West Division final win over the B.C. Lions on Saturday but left IG Stadium on crutches and was wearing a walking boot on his right foot when the team arrived in Hamilton on Monday.
“I think everybody can agree, we would all like to see them play,” said O’Shea “I mean, they’re two of the best players you’re going to see on the field so why would we try to limit them? They’re fighting a courageous battle right now trying to do everything they can to get back on.”
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Schoen, the CFL’s top rookie in 2022, was Winnipeg’s leading receiver this season. The 27-year-old American had 71 catches for 1,222 yards and a league-high 10 touchdown catches in 16 regular-season games.
Bighill, three times the CFL’s top defensive player, played in Saturday’s contest, registering a tackle. But the 35-year-old reportedly sustained the leg injury in the first quarter while chasing Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.
The five-foot-10, 223-pound Bighill had a team-high 74 defensive tackles this season. The Bombers’ defensive captain also added four sacks, three tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery.
Bighill and Schoen attended practice Thursday and Friday in street clothes but weren’t on the field for walk-throughs Saturday morning. Quarterback Zach Collaros said that their presence was still felt behind the scenes.
“I was talking to Adam last night about how much it means for him just to be here and just his voice, whether that’s on the field, or on the sideline or during practice and I feel the same way about Dalton,” said Collaros.
Winnipeg’s defence led the CFL in fewest points allowed (18.2 per game), offensive TDs (27), net yards (298.8), passing yards (229.4) and were third against the run (90.4 per game).
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Winnipeg’s offence remains a potent unit even without Schoen.
Collaros, the CFL’s outstanding player in 2021 and 2022, was second overall in passing this year (4,253 yards) and tops in TDs (33).
Running back Brady Oliveira lead the league in rushing with 1,534 yards en route to being named its top Canadian. Oliveira also added 38 catches for 482 yards and four touchdowns.
Winnipeg’s receiving corps also includes Kenny Lawler, who had 50 catches for 901 yards and six TDs this season.
The six-foot-two, 199-pound Lawler helped the Bombers win Grey Cups in 2019 and ’21 and returned to Manitoba after spending the ’22 campaign with Edmonton.
Over Winnipeg’s last four games, Lawler has 24 catches for 335 yards.
“I think we do a really good job of preparing, not just our starters, but everybody,” said Collaros. “Our coaches do a great job of that, again, the leadership in each position group takes great pride in that. Our guys will be ready to go. But I don’t want to take anything away from how important both (Bighill and Schoen) are to our team.”
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