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Bryant happy to be back with Bombers as he makes first start for injured Kelly

Toronto Argonauts wide receiver Romby Bryant (80) is congratulated by teammate Jeff Keeping (67) after hauling in a touchdown pass against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during first half CFL action in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 24, 2013. Bryant admits he wondered whether his career had come to an end when he was cut by the Argonauts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

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Toronto Argonauts wide receiver Romby Bryant (80) is congratulated by teammate Jeff Keeping (67) after hauling in a touchdown pass against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during first half CFL action in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 24, 2013. Bryant admits he wondered whether his career had come to an end when he was cut by the Argonauts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

WINNIPEG - Veteran receiver Romby Bryant wondered whether his career had come to an end when he was cut by the Toronto Argonauts.

Instead, it has come full circle for the 34-year-old as he starts Thursday in place of the injured Aaron Kelly for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Bryant had a career record 1,206 yards with the Bombers in his 2008 debut season, was traded to Calgary in 2009 and spent three more years there before ending up in Toronto last season.

But he was cut by the Argos in June, a move he wasn't expecting although he was injured for much of 2013, and wondered whether his days in the CFL were over.

"That thought crossed my mind," he said after a practice Tuesday in which he displayed some of that old speed on first-team routes.

"I didn't really know whether people were going to take a chance on me with my age and whatever and then, with Toronto just letting me go out of the blue, you know, maybe people thought I couldn't play any more."

Winnipeg coach Mike O'Shea, who spent four seasons with the Argos and was their special teams co-ordinator when the Bombers picked him as their new head coach, said they did a little checking.

"I believe that Toronto would have kept him around except a couple of younger guys had some breakout games in the pre-season," said O'Shea.

"So it's a matter of calling up . . . (general manager) Jim Barker, or (coach) Scott (Milanovich) and saying, 'What's Romby got left?' and they said 'He's still got a lot of speed.' And when he got here, it shows out in practice, he's still got a ton of speed.

"He doesn't slow down and he understands how hard he has to work to keep that, so I've got a lot of faith in Romby."

Bryant is understandably glad for the shot.

"I'm just glad they gave me a chance to prove I've still got it," he said. "Let's hope I get that chance Thursday."

Winnipeg will face the Edmonton Eskimos, who also are 3-0 to start the season.

The Bombers also added a new quarterback to their roster Tuesday, Josh Portis, picked up in a trade for a conditional draft pick from the Argonauts where he spent last season as a backup.

O'Shea says they looked at their roster and decided it was thin behind starter Drew Willy at quarterback and didn't include any backups with CFL experience.

"It's going to take him time to learn the system or whatever but at least we've got a guy now who's been around the CFL for a year. He's been behind Ricky Ray for over a year so I mean that's important right? . . .

"We feel we have a little more security now if anything unfortunate were to happen."

Marve said the move didn't send any troubling signals for him. He's been handling short yardage situations for the Bombers and has two touchdowns in their three wins so far to start 2014.

"That's just how the business is," he said Thursday.

"I'm still in the learning stage. I'm taking in as much as I can and I'm happy for how Drew's playing. it helps me a lot to learn from a guy like that."

O'Shea stressed the addition of Portis doesn't mean they're unhappy with the play of current backups Marve or Brian Brohm.

"(General manager) Kyle (Walters) and I sat back and watched practice and, up until a couple of days ago, we saw three yellow shirts out there and that was it and you realize you're in a bit of a bind if something were to happen."

The Bombers also added quarterback Mason Mills out of San Diego to their practice roster this week.

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