“It was the right decision to come here”

Naaman Roosevelt high-fived and bro-hugged his new Winnipeg Blue Bombers teammates. He laughed and kibbitzed with the men that make up the receiving group, and he stood behind the offence and studied every move. The one thing the veteran receiver didn’t do at Thursday’s practice was run a route or catch a pass, but that will come Friday. As to whether he might suit up Sunday against his old squad in the annual Labour Day Classic against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, well, as juicy a storyline as that may be, it’s still to be determined.

“When Winnipeg called it was the right decision to come here,” said Roosevelt after practice in his first media Zoom call as a Blue Bomber. “To go back and play in front of that crowd and the fans I played for in in the last couple of years would be awesome. No matter what it’ll be fun and I can’t wait to see that.

“It was definitely crazy coming up here. Just the feel of it was different. But it was fun. I’ve got a bunch of texts and calls from Saskatchewan players and Saskatchewan fans. It’s definitely funny to be on the other side. I’m excited. I’m ready to see what happens this weekend, ready for the Banjo Bowl and be on the other side. It was so loud coming to Winnipeg for that Banjo Bowl, so I want to see it on the other side. That should be fun.”

A veteran of five seasons with the Riders – including two 1,000-yard campaigns, a West Division All-Star Team appearance in 2017 and being named Saskatchewan’s Most Outstanding Player in 2006 – Roosevelt spoke with the Bombers last week about joining the club following his release during training camp by the Montreal Alouettes.

“It’s just the team and the atmosphere,” he said of signing with Winnipeg. “I knew a couple of guys already… I knew Zach (Collaros), I knew (Nic) Demski, Yoshi (Jermarcus Hardrick), Willie J (Jefferson), Tobi (Antigha) – there’s a bunch of them that I played with, a bunch of good guys that are telling me this is a great locker room, a great staff and a great organization so I definitely wanted to be a part of that.

“I knew it was a great choice for me to come here and help build what they already have – they are the defending Grey Cup champions. So, for me, that was my main goal – to come in here and win a Grey Cup and I thought this was the best team to do it with.”

Roosevelt was asked about what had unfolded in Montreal, but chose not to be critical of the Alouettes, saying they have a ‘great team, great receiving corps. It just wasn’t the time.’ What he brings to the Bombers is another experienced target that already includes Demski, Darvin Adams, Kenny Lawler, Rasheed Bailey, Drew Wolitarsky and Charles Nelson. He’s also seen just about every defensive coverage imaginable in his 67 games with the Riders.

“Just adding an extra veteran always helps… a guy that has seen and played in a lot of games and understands defences,” he said. “It’s always helpful when you can bring in a guy like that, who has been around and understands the game. With me, I’m just coming in and doing anything I can.” I had a couple weeks off and I’ve got fresh legs.”

Roosevelt has spent the last few days holed up in his Winnipeg hotel room to complete his quarantine. He’s been watching film of every practice and participating in the meetings via Zoom. And, naturally, all of that has been driving him a bit loopy.

“I’ve been excited. I’ve been pacing in my hotel room the last three days, just ready to go,” he said. “Doing workouts… just sitting in my room with my gloves on. I’m just excited and ready to go. I felt like this was a great opportunity from me and I’m trying to take full advantage of it.”

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