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Don’t expect to see many Winnipeg Blue Bombers wearing the new head protection when the regular season begins, even if it does cut down on concussions.

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The CFL has made the use of Guardian caps mandatory in training camps and contact practices, and this week announced players could use them in games if they choose to.

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Of the three players we asked on Thursday, only one was planning to wear the caps, but only for exhibition games.

“Honestly, in the pre-season I don’t see why you wouldn’t wear it,” linebacker Shayne Gauthier said. “Why would you get a concussion in a pre-season game? You have a lot of young guys that try to establish themselves during pre-season, and they’re going to bring it. During the season I think I’m going to just get the regular helmet.

“But pre-season, if I can save an injury, save a concussion, I don’t see why I wouldn’t do it.”

The CFL says there was a 42% decrease in training camp concussions last season, due to the use of the caps and other safety measures.

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Other research also points to the odd-looking helmet cover leading to a reduction in brain injuries.

“It is (ugly), I’m not gonna lie,” Gauthier said. “I’m thinking about it. Like, why would you not? But I guess I’ll see in the next couple of weeks.”

Looks isn’t the only turn-off for some players.

There’s also the macho side of it.

“I’m not wearing the Guardian,” Bombers defensive end Willie Jefferson said. “I like football rough, tough, hard-nosed. That’s the way it’s been played, that’s the way I want to play it. I’m more than comfortable wearing the Guardians during practice to eliminate the concussions, all those scenarios. But when it comes to football games when it actually counts, we need to play football.

“I’d rather just have my gold helmet, with my stripe and my W. I don’t need anything to block that.”

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Some players have said the caps add weight, but Gauthier says he doesn’t notice any difference.

Occasionally a hit will knock it loose, but one tap and it’s back in place.

“A lot of guys were apprehensive when it first came in for practice,” defensive lineman and players union rep Jake Thomas said. “A lot of chatter, complaining, ‘Why do we wear these?’ But guys have got used to it. The data proves in practice least year the number of head injuries are down substantially. You can never be upset when they’re trying to do more for player safety.”

Yet Thomas doesn’t plan to wear one for games.

“I don’t want to say never, but I don’t think it’ll be something I would plan on doing on the start of the season,” he said. “Maybe if I had some sort of issue it would be something that I would consider.”

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The use of mouthguards, which also can prevent concussions, is mandatory in games this season.


Players are being rather coy about how different the defence might look under new coordinator Jordan Younger.

“I’m not going to give too much,” Jefferson said. “I’ll wait for the season to start for guys to see that on their own. But I like it. It’s a change of pace, change of attitude.”

Younger has taken over from Richie Hall this season, the promotion coming after at least one team tried to lure him away.

“He’s a super-smart guy,” defensive back Evan Holm said. “He sees the game a lot differently than I did. He just has a different outlook. he’ll give me tips that I didn’t know. He sees weaknesses that maybe I don’t see.”

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It sounds, too, like the roles of some positions may change.

“A couple guys doing a couple different things,” is how Holm put it. “We’re just trying to get better at what we’re not good at.”

The Bombers allowed the fewest points (20.9 per game) in the CFL last season and were the only team to allow fewer than 300 yards per game.

They were also the least-penalized defence and tied for third in the number of turnovers they forced, even though they tied for last in interceptions, with 13.


Entering his third season, Holm has become a mainstay on and off the field, popular with teammates and coaches alike.

One of the things he did last year was start a book club.

“He’s just an easy guy to get along with,” Thomas said. “He’s very well-read. He was a big part of bringing guys together for a book club. It was the first-ever book club I was a part of. It might have been the first time I read three novels that I wasn’t assigned in a very long time.”

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Linebacker Adam Bighill wasn’t the only player put on the six-game injured list.

Defensive back Jamal Parker was, too, and his stay is expected to be longer than Bighill’s.


Head coach Mike O’Shea opened his Thursday media session with a tribute to TSN broadcaster Darren Dutchyshen, who passed away this week.

“A sad day to hear the news about Dutchy,” O’Shea said. “Obviously if you’re any type of Canadian sports fan at all, he was a big part of your living room every night. Tough to hear that news. Being a Saskatchewan guy, he was a good CFL fan.”

X: @friesensunmedia

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