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About "kirk-penton"

Kirk Penton was born in Manitoba, grew up in Saskatchewan and has been back in Manitoba for the last 14 years. He has worked at the Winnipeg Sun since 2001, is married with one son and can't get enough sports into his diet.

Bombers mini-camp, Day 2

- April 15th, 2014

BRADENTON, Fla. — The second day of Bombers mini-camp is in the books, and some players are starting to stake their claim on training camp spots.

Many of the players the Bombers have already signed are looking good. Quarterback Robert Marve is getting the most attention due to his strong and accurate arm, but non-contact camps are conducive to quarterbacks and receivers looking good. In saying that, though, he has been more accurate than Drew Willy, Max Hall and Brian Brohm.

We won’t know how good Marve really is until main camp starts in June, but his performance at the mini-camp will make the QB battle a little more interesting.

Here’s are a few other thoughts from Day 2 in sunny Bradenton …

• Running back/returner C.J. Tarver, who isn’t under contract, has the Bomber brass talking. He’s quick, and he catches the ball every time it’s thrown his way. The Bombers are also high on Nic Grigsby, who has already been signed, and Paris Cotton has acquitted himself well. The problem with mini-camps is it’s tough to get a good feel of how tailbacks actually are at running the football. Looks like Tarver will get a chance to prove himself in Winnipeg, though.

• Slotback Nick Moore showed up today with his brother Lance, the former New Orleans Saints receiver who now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They chatted with a few of the players and watched most of the afternoon session. Big things are expected of Nick Moore this season after he signed a contract worth more than $180,000 a season.


Lance (left) and Nick Moore take in the action on Monday at IMG Academy.

• I don’t know if it’s because this is his first big event as Winnipeg’s starting quarterback and he’s nervous, but Drew Willy hasn’t exactly exploded out of the gates as the Bombers No. 1 pivot. He’s been overthrowing receivers quite a bit on the deep balls and has been generally underwhelming from this point of view, whereas Robert Marve has been on point for much of the camp. The coaches will no doubt say Willy has been good, but we’ll find out for sure on Tuesday.

• Brian Brohm and Mario Urrutia made their first appearance at camp on Monday after attending Brohm’s wedding on Saturday. The former Louisville teammates hooked up on a beautiful deep ball, and Urrutia showed great determination while hauling in another pass while fighting off a defensive back and nearly getting flipped over his back in the process. Urrutia lost his helmet during the struggle, but he still ended up with the ball. He’ll be someone to watch at training camp, for sure.

• While the Bombers were working out on Monday, a handful of kids were on an adjacent field getting individual instruction from IMG Academy instructors. This place turns out a lot of professional athletes in many sports, so these kids could be someone some day. They probably hope that’s the case considering how much money they must be shelling out to attend.


This is why all quarterbacks come from the United States. There just isn’t this kind of training in Canada.

• The problem with mini-camps is there are no one-on-ones between the offensive and defensive linemen. It’s therefore difficult to determine who’s having a good week. Actually, they do some one-on-ones, but they can’t be considered official because they’re not wearing pads. They have spent most of their time doing drills. They must be bored by now.

• Two import kickers were supposed to be at mini-camp on Monday, but due to travel mixups they were unable to make it and instead will be out there on Tuesday. Don’t forget the Bombers have Western rookie Lirim Hajrullahu as their only placekicker right now, so they need to add at least one more leg.

• Stephon Morris, Maurice Leggett and Brandon Hogan were three defensive backs who caught my eye on Monday.

• Time flies when you’re in sunny Florida! The camp will end on Tuesday morning with one last two-hour session, and then most of the Bomber brass will head to the airport for the flight home to Winnipeg. I, on the other hand, will be heading over to Vero Beach to take in Montreal Alouettes mini-camp for the next few days. Chad Johnson is scheduled to be on the field Tuesday night at 5 o’clock.


A Bradenton resident goes for a stroll on Monday afternoon.

Bombers mini-camp, Day 1

- April 14th, 2014

BRADENTON, Fla. — The Bombers kicked off a new era on a couple of fronts Sunday with the first two practices of their three-day mini-camp.

It was the first official workout for new starting quarterback Drew Willy, and it was also the first session for new head coach Mike O’Shea. Neither offered up much in the way of deep thoughts about their first days, but that’s probably how they’re going to be as long as their tenures last. They’re definitely not “me” kind of guys.

The other difference is this is the first time the Bombers have come to Florida in the off-season for a mini-camp. The last three years they had their mini-camp at the indoor soccer complex in Winnipeg. No offence to the indoor soccer complex, but Florida is better.

Here are a few thoughts about the first day:

• Starting quarterback Drew Willy didn’t exactly shine on Day 1, but it was Day 1 so it doesn’t matter. The quarterback who looked the best was actually Robert Marve, the former Miami and Purdue gunslinger who throws a beautiful ball. Max Hall started strong but tailed off in the second workout. Again, none of it really matters. They’re all going to get a shot at main camp.

• It was 85 F, or 29 C, during the afternoon workout, which no doubt allowed the coaching staff to get a better understanding of who is in shape and who isn’t. They went pretty hard on the first day with plenty of one-on-ones, and O’Shea said training camp will move at an even faster pace.

• There were a few fans, of course, who came out to watch the practices. You can’t go too far in the world without finding Bomber fans.

• President and CEO Wade Miller took in the first day of mini-camp, and he is proud and excited about the talent that has been assembled. Right now it doesn’t look any different than the talent assembled by the former regime, but we’ll soon find out if Miller is correct and it’s actually better.

• O’Shea started his first day of real coaching by greeting each player as he entered IMG’s locker-room building. He tried to tell the media he was just holding the door open for everyone and when the first guy shook his hand he just kept doing it with everyone else. He meant to do it, though.

• I predict O’Shea is going to protect his players like there’s no tomorrow.

• New defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry finally met with the media on Sunday. He hadn’t been made available prior to Sunday and apparently O’Shea won’t be letting his assistants do interviews during the season, so it was good to at least get him for a few minutes. He’s an interesting dude. He’s the definition of “thinking outside the box.” He does things differently and believes passionately in what he’s doing. Whether that translates into success on the field will be determined over 18 games later this year.

• I already know Etcheverry’s favourite saying. Whenever a defensive back knocks down a pass, he will say to his player: “Don’t you normally intercept those?” He said it at least three times on Sunday, even though not every ball was catchable. One player agreed with him and dropped to give him 10 pushups.

• Max Hall said all the right things when asked about his off-season demotion in favour of Drew Willy. “I knew something was going to happen, and it’s out of my control,” Hall said. “I do know that I’m real excited about the new coaching staff. Kyle’s doing a really good job of bringing in good players. I’m just happy and proud to be still part of this team. I’m just going to compete and do the best I can.”

• Some of the players who stood out on Day 1 were: receivers Willie Haulstead, Antonio Robinson and Jaymar Johnson, defensive backs Stephon Morris, Bruce Johnson and Cyhl Quarles — if that is, in fact, his real name.

• Don’t forget that half of the 50 or so players taking part in the mini-camp won’t make it to main camp.

• Haven’t seen the whole IMG Academy, but from what I have observed it’s a pretty fancy place and it continues to expand. Apparently the annual tuition is in the neighbourhood of $60,000, so I understand where they’re getting the money to expand.

• A pair of kickers will report to mini-camp on Monday. Also expected to be there are quarterback Brian Brohm, who got married over the weekend, and a receiver, Mario Urrutia, who attended the wedding. Brohm and Urrutia were teammates at the University of Louisville.

• Here are a couple of pictures from Day 1 in Bradenton …


There were more than enough one-on-ones for receivers, running backs, defensive backs and linebackers to strut their stuff.




Head coach Mike O’Shea addresses the troops during the morning practice.



This is the building where the locker-rooms are located.


A family of Bomber fans mingle with the players following the afternoon practice.


Quarterback Max Hall makes his way to the locker-room at the end of the day.


There is running backs coach Buck Pierce chatting with some of his pupils. Not used to that yet.

Jets 2, Coyotes 1 (SO)

- April 2nd, 2014

PHOENIX — It’s amazing how one shootout goal can change the feeling of an entire road trip. The only reason the Jets were giddy in the dressing room after tonight’s 2-1 shootout win over Phoenix was because Andrew Ladd’s shootout attempt bounced off the post, off Thomas Greiss and into the net.

If that wasn’t enough, Ladd scored Winnipeg’s only goal in regulation after the referee got in the way of a Coyotes pass behind the net. Bryan Little scooped up the puck and fed it out front to Ladd, who wired home his 23rd of the season.

A win’s a win’s a win, though, and the Jets deserved to feel good because they wrapped up their five-game roadie with a 2-2-1 mark.

• The Jets definitely deserve credit, though, for doing enough to get a win 24 hours after they blew their 4-0 lead against the Anaheim Ducks and lost 5-4 in overtime.

• Apparently head coach Paul Maurice told the team during a team meeting this morning that there were many reasons why they weren’t going to win. They had a ton of injuries, and they were hurting after Monday’s loss in Anaheim. That didn’t stop them, though, so Maurice deserves some credit for doing something to get the Jets going.

• The bottom line is the road trip was a roller-coaster, just like the last three seasons have been. The fact it ended on a positive note makes it look better than it was, but at least Thursday’s home game against Pittsburgh will mean something.

• Basically, the Jets need to win the rest of their games and hope Dallas and Phoenix lose the rest of theirs. Unlikely.

• Devin Setoguchi got back in the lineup tonight in place of Anthony Peluso. Maurice said he got in because he didn’t expect it to be a physical contest.

Korey Banks’ toughest moment

- January 31st, 2014


Korey Banks is having a superb season on the football field.
The B.C. Lions linebacker has produced career highs with six sacks and three forced fumbles, and there are still five games to go. The seven-year CFL veteran has only two interceptions, but he believes he can get to his annual goal of five picks and will therefore ultimately be named the West Division’s defensive player of the year — at least.
The trash-talking, swashbuckling 31-year-old is a confident and mentally strong pain in the you-know-what for offences around the league.
And it’s great to see, actually, because no one probably would’ve said a word if Banks had told Wally Buono before the season that he going to stay at home in Georgia and cry until he had no tears left to shed.
That’s because Korey Banks watched his two-year-old son, Khamari, die of cancer in January. He was in that Atlanta hospital room when his frail son was taken off life support and breathed his last breath. Banks had prayed earlier in the week for God to take Khamari.
“You never want to see anybody perish, but that wasn’t my son,” Banks said Sunday at his team’s downtown Winnipeg hotel.
“I didn’t want to see him like that for years and years and years. That wasn’t him.”
Khamari, the third of four Banks children, started having nosebleeds shortly after his second birthday. A few weeks later he was diagnosed with cancer of the nasal cavity. Less than a year later, he was gone.
‘Have to move on’
Banks admits he went into a shell after Khamari’s passing, but he knew he couldn’t stay there.
“It’ll never get easy, but life is about moving on,” said Banks, a three-time CFL all-star. “Whoever you are, you have to move on. If not, you’ll end up under the bridge, sleeping on the corner or being a bum. A lot of guys end up in those situations. They couldn’t move on in life. They let whatever tragedy take them down and they stayed there.
“I can’t allow that, because I have other kids and a wife and family. I’m the leader of the house, so if I’m pouting and not showing spirit, then they won’t.”
He said his family, which includes his wife Tartesia, sons Korey Jr., 12, and Kamden, 7, and Kennedi, who was born five months before Khamari passed away, is doing well. Korey Jr. loves sports but wants to get into the medical field when he grows up because of what happened to Khamari.
When the Lions take to the Canad Inns Stadium field on Monday, Banks, as he has for every game this season, will be wearing a T-shirt that memorializes his son beneath his jersey. He said the heartache he experienced has changed him, but in a good way.
“It makes me enjoy every moment. Like, forget about what’s happening or what happened. Think about what’s going to happen,” Banks said. “Like that 1-7 start we had, it didn’t faze me one bit, because I knew we had the team and the players. You just gotta start with one win.”
Buono can’t put his finger on it precisely, but he said, “Korey’s a little bit more focused and maybe a little less volatile than he’s been in years past.
“I don’t know if that’s maturity or the result of going through a personal tragedy like that. It can make things a little bit more simple for you and maybe make you a little more appreciative. He’s been a very, very good player for us.”
He certainly has, as Banks leads the team in sacks, forced fumbles and pass knock-downs.
“There’s nothing we can do to bring him back or rewrite the past, but you just gotta make the future better,” Banks said. “I have this gift. I gotta keep using it. I’m not going to let my gift go and feel sorry for myself. A man doesn’t do that.
“He’s gone, but never forgotten.”

The (latest) new Bomber boss

- December 4th, 2013

The Bombers continued their early December tradition today by naming a new head coach. The usual optimism surrounded the event, although this time it seemed a little different.

I’m not going to sit here and claim Mike O’Shea, the 30th head coach in Bomber history, is the answer, because no one knows. He does, however, seem like a down-to-earth, likeable and respected man who played 16 seasons in the CFL as a rugged middle linebacker and then had four more years as Toronto’s innovative special teams boss. He is an excellent choice, but he is a rookie choice. It’s a gamble, but it seems like a smart gamble. Only time will tell.

A few tidbits from today’s press conference at the Fairmont Hotel:

• The presser was originally going to be held on Friday, but it was moved up to today. Not sure why, but the speculation is it was because there are so many assistant coaching spots to fill that there was no use waiting around. Makes sense.

• Here’s what one league executive said to me when I asked his thoughts on the O’Shea hire: “I like it providing he gets a good staff with him. They need a vet somewhere.”

• O’Shea came across as, well, a Canadian. When asked why he felt he was qualified to coach the Bombers, his response was: “Being from North Bay, you try not to want to talk about yourself, but I guess this is the forum where you have to do it.”

• I wonder if Rich Stubler becomes a defensive co-ordinator candidate for the Bombers if he parts ways with the B.C. Lions?

• One of the new names I heard as a possible coaching staff member on Wednesday is Cooper Harris. If you Google him, it’s NOT the attractive actress you will see on the first page of search results. He is a former teammate of O’Shea’s.

• O’Shea said some of the coaches who have influenced him over the years include Don Matthews, Stubler, Gary Etcheverry, Scott Milanovich and Jim Barker. Not a bad crew.

• O’Shea said one of the first things he asked the Bombers during the interview process was how much time he would be given to turn things around. “I wanted to find out what their commitment level was,” he said. “They are committed to this town, this province, this organization, and they’re committed to winning. To me, it was an easy choice. The matter of time, Kyle’s done a great job with the scouting staff, Wade’s done a great job hiring Kyle. I know it sounds a bit like a love-in, but they’re building it right. Their hearts are in the right place. They’ve got good football minds. There’s nowhere to go but up.”

• I talked to O’Shea’s former teammate, Kevin Eiben, on Wednesday, and he had nothing but great things to say about the new Bomber boss. “One of the smartest players I’ve ever played with, one of the hardest-working for sure, and one of the toughest,” Eiben said. “I can always remember one of the years when he broke his collarbone and played another nine games with a broken collarbone. I’d never seen that in my career. He loved the game. He was always there for his teammates no matter what, and he wasn’t going to be pulled off the field unless he was dying.”

• It didn’t go unnoticed by several in attendance that Wade Miller was at the back of the room and it was Kyle Walters up at the front with O’Shea. It was a subtle gesture that Walters is his own man and made the O’Shea selection. Miller will still be in the picture, though, especially if Khari Jones becomes the offensive co-ordinator.

• My colleague, Paul Friesen, asked O’Shea if he would make the big decisions, like who the starting quarterback would be week in and week out. That was one of the things that Tim Burke could have done better: not completely giving the responsibility to the offensive co-ordinator. O’Shea’s answer makes it sound even more like it’s going to be a group effort on Chancellor Matheson Road going forward. “That will be a collaboration,” he said. “That’s not going to be left just up to the offensive co-ordinator. I will certainly value their opinion greatly. But if there’s some glaring issue or some game management issue that I have, we’re definitely going to have to talk about it.”

• The first time O’Shea and GM Kyle Walters met was in 1992 on the practice field at the University of Guelph, where they literally collided during a training camp drill. Walters was a running back; O’Shea a linebacker. “I’m kind of a small, shifty guy, and I looked across and it was Mike O’Shea,” Walters said. “And he killed me. That was Day 1 of training camp. And I was like, ‘I’m not sure if this university football is cut out for me.’ ”

• It was clear O’Shea was blown away by the reception he got during the press conference. The Eskimos invited their fans to come to Chris Jones’ press conference last week, and the Bombers followed suit. More than 100 supporters showed up, and it had O’Shea wishing he had brought his entire family to Winnipeg. O’Shea brought his only son, Mike Jr., to Winnipeg and posed for pictures with him afterwards.

• O’Shea will be moving his family from Milton, Ont., which is the only place it has ever called home, to Winnipeg, which he noted is no small thing. His other family members include his wife Richere and two daughters in addition to Mike Jr.

• Just for fun, I went back and looked at Toronto’s special teams units in 2010 — O’Shea’s first year with the Argos. They had the best punt-return average, the third best kick return average, the most big plays, the most kick return touchdowns, the fewest cover team penalties and the best kickoff average.

• In addition, the Argos special teams were 5-for-5 on third-down fakes in 2010. The rest of the league was a combined 7-for-11. Bomber fans are no doubt hoping he brings that kind of fun to Investors Group Field in 2014.