BOMBSHELLS: Matthews itching to make contribution with Bombers after being limited by injuries

Receiver Chris Matthews is set to make his season debut this week. (KEVIN KING/Winnipeg Sun)

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This is not the way Chris Matthews envisioned things going in the first few months of his second stint with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The former CFL rookie of the year and NFL receiver, who has played in a Grey Cup and a Super Bowl, was injured for most of training camp and has missed all but five quarters of the Bombers season so far.

He sat out last week with a pinky finger injury that he suffered early in the Bombers win over the Ottawa Redblacks on July 5.

He also missed Week 1 with an injury, which has messed considerably with his desire to be a high-impact player with the Bombers after signing a three-year contract as a free agent in May.

“Yeah I’m healthy now,” Matthews said Wednesday, a couple days before the Bombers host the Redblacks at IG Field.

“So it’s all about going out there and making it happen, man. Things happen, it’s a rough start for me but hopefully that was the final one that made me sit down and now I can go out there and actually contribute the way I want to contribute.”

Matthews has just three catches for 26 yards this season and has not been a factor in the team putting up a 4-0 record.

He has mostly been a spectator as players like Lucky Whitehead, Nic Demski and Darvin Adams have been making the big plays on offence.

“It’s low-key intimidating that we’re doing so good and everybody is hitting on all cylinders,” Matthews said. “Then it’s me coming in with all these expectations and not being able to do it because I’ve been hurt. It’s a little bit frustrating but you got to be professional, come out and figure out a way to get it done. That’s the mindset that I’m on right now.”

With Matthews returning, it’s likely Kenny Lawler will go back to the practice roster, though the status of receiver/returner Charles Nelson is in question as well and other changes could be necessary.

‘STOVE’ IS HEATING UP

The man known as “Stove” is cooking up some strong play in the middle of the defensive line so far.

Steven Richardson, a 23-year-old pure rookie out of the University of Minnesota, has nine tackles in four games as part of a Bombers D-line that has been outrageously good against the run and has been getting consistent pressure on opposition quarterbacks.

He has seemingly fit in very well with his new Bombers teammates, who made sure the nameplate above his locker-room stall includes his nickname.

“I got the nickname from a movie called Bridesmaids,” Richardson said. “The main character is on a plane and she’s drunk and the flight attendant is named Steve. Since she’s drunk, she thinks that it says Stove. So that’s how I ended up getting it.

“I got it in college and it took me a year and half to figure out that’s where he actually got it from.”

Richardson has looked very comfortable at defensive tackle in the CFL — it doesn’t hurt when your team hasn’t lost a game yet.

“It’s going well,” said Richardson, who beat out incumbent Brandin Bryant for a starting job in training camp.

“It’s a great D-line, a great group and we get along really well together. We’re learning from each other and it’s really fun to be around those guys and the coaches too.”

The Bombers defence has been lights-out against the run, allowing opposing team’s to average just 48.3 yards per game.

“I love that,” Richardson said. “We definitely emphasize stopping the run first and then we can get after them in the past. We stop the run and it’s over.”

PLAYING FOR YOUR CITY

A month into his first season with his hometown team, D.J. Lalama is still soaking it all in.

The 25-year-old linebacker, who started his CFL career with the Montreal Alouettes, is living a dream by playing with the Bombers and, so far, things couldn’t be better.

“It’s been everything and more than you hope it would be,” Lalama said. “Fans are great, city’s obviously really behind us, with our hot start, and it’s a family in here.

“At first you’ve just got to take a deep breath because it’s all kind of surreal.”

Lalama has now played two home games at IG Field, where he played U Sports football for the Manitoba Bisons, and those games have been special.

He said the other Winnipeggers on the team — running back Andrew Harris, slotback Nic Demski, injured running back Brady Oliveira, offensive lineman Geoff Gray and fellow linebacker Thomas Miles — share his sentiments.

“Definitely running out there and being on the right side of things, it definitely means a little bit more,” Lalama said. “You see that in the play.

“For the local guys, it’s not just football, it’s not just a way to earn a cheque or play professional sports. This is home and you’re doing it for your city.”

BANGED UP ON BOTH SIDES

The Bombers have a bunch of players who are nicked up and missed practice this week but coach Mike O’Shea said most should be good to go Friday.

Included in the group of players he said are good, is middle linebacker Adam Bighill. We’ll believe that when we see it, as O’Shea said the plan was for him to play last week, but he was a late scratch.

It looks like offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick, receiver Lucky Whitehead and safety Jeff Hecht will play Friday, while linebacker Jesse Briggs is out (possibly long term) and returner Charles Nelson is unlikely to play.

The 2-2 Redblacks have many injuries as well, with starting quarterback Dom Davis, safety Antoine Pruneau, defensive back Jonathan Rose and receiver Seth Coate all ruled out for Friday.

Davis will be replaced by former B.C. Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings, who has done good things in the past but has struggled for the last couple of years.

The Bombers won’t have much to go on in terms of how Jennings operates in Ottawa’s system.

“Well, we’ve got a lot of film on Jonathon Jennings,” O’Shea said. “Not in that particular system, but it’s stuff you can look at. Systems do dictate, so you try to keep him within the system. The main thing, his creativity that he brings as an athlete in any system is something everybody in the league already knows about.”

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