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Dressler's return to Roughriders won't make winning Sunday easier for Bombers

WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Blue Bombers haven't managed to beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders on the Labour Day weekend in nine years, and the return of receiver Weston Dressler to the Saskatchewan lineup certainly isn't improving their chances this Sunday.

"Him having option routes or whatever it may be, he knows how to get open, he knows how to make plays, he's just a special player in that regard," Bombers defensive back Chris Randle said after practice Thursday.

Dressler returned to Saskatchewan after he was released by the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. The Roughriders released him in January so he could try again to crack the NFL.

The native of Bismarck, N.D., has spent his entire six-year CFL career with Saskatchewan and has topped 1,000 yards in five of those seasons.

Veteran defensive back Johnny Sears says the Bombers very much want to end their Labour Day weekend losing streak but, more importantly, they're also jockeying for a playoff spot as they return to the CFL West this year.

The Bombers (6-3) and the Roughriders (6-2) can't afford to let up as they try to catch the division-leading Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos (both 7-1). And the B.C. Lions (5-4) aren't that far behind.

Most of Winnipeg's six wins have come at the expense of opponents from the East. B.C. is the only western team on the list.

Dressler adds to the passing threat this Sunday but the Bombers also have had special trouble dealing with the running game this season.

The Roughriders put 186 rushing yards on the board in their 23-17 Aug. 7 win and held Winnipeg running back Nic Grigsby, the leading rusher in the league right now, to just seven.

"We'll have a heavy does of that coming up this week, (Jerome) Messam had a good little game against us last time," says Sears.

Messam had 126 of those 186 yards and Sears says they have work to do as they try to close things up.

"I think it's just the little things of everybody just making sure our run defence is sound. You can't fill a certain way when you don't have help. You've got to make sure you have help."

Meanwhile, it looked for a few minutes Thursday as though Winnipeg coach Mike O'Shea might have some of the same concerns his Regina counterpart Corey Chamblin has had this week.

Like the Roughriders Darian Durant, Bombers' quarterback Drew Willy hurt his throwing hand. But while Durant, injured last Sunday, has been cautious to commit to this Sunday's game, O'Shea says Willy reported being fine and will practice Friday and play Sunday.

He hurt his hand near the end of a long practice that stretched more than two hours but O'Shea says he has no regrets about working the team hard.

"We needed those last six plays, we did, and they were going very well up until that point and then (backup) Brian (Brohm) stepped in did well, Brian stepped in and I don't think he missed a beat," said O'Shea.

"You've got to keep going. Everybody needs the reps."

Willy, who was Durant's backup in Regina until he landed the starting slot in Winnipeg, is the No. 2 passer in the league this season with 2,358 yards, behind only Toronto's Ricky Ray.

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