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A nothing game? Not to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers it isn’t

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From the outside, Friday night’s regular season finale for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and BC Lions is essentially tantamount to a preseason game.

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Nothing is at stake but pride.

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The Bombers already know they will host the West Division Finals on November 13th at IG Field and the Lions know they will return to Winnipeg on that date, they have to beat the Calgary Stampeders at home in BC next week.

But as insignificant as this Week 21 clash may seem in the grand scheme of things, there isn’t a soul in the Blue Bombers dressing room who would admit it.

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And it’s not because of ignorance. They just don’t see it that way.

“We just want to go out there and do it for our boys,” safety Brandon Alexander said Tuesday after the Bombers completed a 75-minute practice session at IG Field. “Everyone is ready to go. We have people who are ready to play, some who haven’t played and some who have. Everyone is nervous.

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“We are a team.”

And teammates help each other, as the old sports cliché goes.

Guys like Greg Ellingson and Drew Wolitarsky, who are both expected to play for the first time in weeks after recovering from their respective injuries.

“This is professional football – you can’t just get off the couch and do it,” said Wolitarsky in his first training session on Monday after missing six weeks with an ankle injury. “That’s too much to do overnight.”

Wolitarsky is one of the players Alexander referenced, a guy who needs to get back into the game, feel the contact and speed again, and most importantly, prepare for the division finals where a win will give the Bombers their third straight Gray would send cup game.

“You have to get back into it, just like a sprinter has to get back into training to get going at full speed,” Wolitarsky said. “Your muscles, your body, they’re not used to that impact, no matter how many Jacob’s ladders you do or how many squats you do in the weight room, that’s a different beast.”

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Not everyone gets off the couch, as Wolitarsky put it.

Linebacker Adam Bighill, for example, has played in all of Winnipeg’s 17 games this season. Surely a guy whose job is meeting other people for a living would happily tone it down a notch or two in a game where nothing is at stake.

“But at the same time, for me, I’m a guy who loves to compete,” Bighill said Monday. “Every time I compete, it’s one after the other. It is for me.”

Like Alexander, Bighill looked at the bigger picture…the team.

While the game is an opportunity for some of those previously injured to get some replays, it’s also another chance for the team to head into the postseason better.

“It’s an opportunity for everyone in our squad to get better and the fact of the matter is we have to get better,” Bighill said. “We have to keep pushing until we play our playoff game. There’s a lot of room for us to improve, from training to this game to practice in bye week and the final in the west. This is an opportunity to become a better football team.”

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And half-heartedly it can be dangerous.

“If you don’t go out there and play hard, you’re going to hurt yourself,” pivot Zach Collaros said.

Collaros, who was named Most Outstanding Player for the second year in a row at the end of the season, like Collaros, will not play the full game. He may only see a few drives. There’s a delicate balance here to ensure a guy like Collaros gets what he needs from Friday’s game and he’s healthy two weeks later in the West Final.

The same goes for the pigs in front of him on the offensive line, three of whom are already in Winnipeg’s last game against the BC Lions

When Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea was asked an unrelated question about Friday’s game, his eyebrows were raised even before he heard the question.

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“We want to win the football game,” he said. “It’s important to go out there and play your best football, make sure you’re playing the game right. You never want to have a break where you just go out and do the moves. I don’t think that will work. It certainly won’t allow you to feel good going into the playoffs.

“There’s one way to play it, and that’s to go all out. And we will do that.”

For O’Shea, he already knows that he doesn’t need to summon a Rah-Rah message to upgrade his squad.

With back-to-back Gray Cups under their belt and a culture that only pulls in one direction, they know.

And the idea of ​​getting better, as O’Shea put it, doesn’t need a week’s rest.

“You know what the expectation is,” he said. “You have it under you. You want to win this game. They want to play hard.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @scottbilleck

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