Bombers lose Nichols for 4-6 weeks, Streveler to start for foreseeable future

Quarterback Chris Streveler (right) stands with injured quarterback Matt Nichols at Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice on the University of Manitoba campus on Monday. Kevin King / Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun

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There was good news and bad news for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with regard to starting quarterback Matt Nichols on Monday.

First, the bad news: He is going to be out of the lineup for a while with an injury to his throwing arm or shoulder.

Now for the good news: The team expects him to return to the lineup in 4-6 weeks and could still be a part of the playoff push come October and November.

Nichols was injured in the Bombers 32-16 win over the B.C. Lions last Thursday at IG Field. The 32-year-old quarterback was sacked by defensive end Shawn Lemon, fumbled and landed awkwardly on his throwing arm.

Nichols did not need surgery to repair the injury and will go on the six-game injured list this week. He was at practice on Monday and did not have any kind of sling on his arm.

“We’ll re-evaluate his status in about 4-6 weeks and go from there,” Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said Monday after the team practiced at the University of Manitoba.

“I expect him to be ready right around that time.”

Second-year quarterback Chris Streveler will take over as the starter this week when the 7-2 Bombers play the 6-3 Eskimos for first place in the West Division in Edmonton on Friday night.

He’ll be backed up by rookie Sean McGuire, who has never taken a snap in the CFL.

The Bombers reached out to retired quarterback Kevin Glenn over the weekend but he declined the offer. The team is looking around for another quarterback to fill the third roster spot and names like Brandon Bridge and Drew Willy, both currently free agents who played in the league last year, have come up.

“I don’t know about this week, but you do need three so we’ll be looking at that,” O’Shea said. “We’ll see. You definitely need to have one here, but I don’t know if we’ll rush the process. Probably next week.”

The Bombers will surely miss Nichols, his experience, his leadership and his ability to take care of the football and throw touchdown passes.

But the team has not been at all reliant on the passing game this season. In fact the Bombers are dead last in the league in passing with an average of 225 yards per game.

The Bombers generally win with a combination of a stellar running game, led by Andrew Harris and a strong offensive line, special teams and defence.

That shouldn’t change too much with Streveler at the controls. His main issue will be taking care of the football. The fleet-footed quarterback has thrown three interceptions on just 16 pass attempts this season.

“I expect him to go out there and win us a football game,” O’Shea said of Streveler. “He’s quite capable. We give him a lot of snaps in games because he’s a good quarterback. He’s proven that. He stepped in as a raw rookie and played three games right off the hop and acquitted himself quite well. We like our guys.”

Injured quarterback Matt Nichols takes stretching exercises with the rest of the team during Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice on the University of Manitoba campus on Monday. Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network Kevin King / Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun

Streveler, 24, has played in 27 CFL games and has started three of them.

He has thrown for 1,216 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has also rushed for 617 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Nichols has thrown for 1,936 yards and 15 touchdowns, against just five interceptions, this season. He has a 39-21 record as the Bombers starter over the last four seasons but still has a reputation as a “game manager,” rather than a dynamic quarterback.

The Bombers have to hope Streveler can continue to manage the games, use his legs to keep defences on their toes and complete enough passes to move the chains consistently. If he doesn’t try to do too much, not much has to change with this Bombers offence.

“It’s just about our team continuing to go out and execute and trying to win games,” Streveler said. “It’s not about me. It’s about the team. My job is to just step in and try to continue to put wins together and move the ball offensively. I’m working on trying to do that.”

Streveler started the first three games of the season for the Bombers last year after Nichols went down with a knee injury in training camp. He also started at Edmonton on Oct. 3 last year. The Bombers went 1-3 in those games.

“There’s definitely a lot more comfort there,” Streveler said of his situation now. “Not only starting some games last year but I’ve played in every game since I’ve been here. All those experiences, from camp this year to all the practices, you just continue to learn from that and grow. I think compared to my first couple of games last year I think I have a lot more experience and feel better about that.”

It has been a year for backup quarterbacks in the CFL. Seven of the nine teams have used two different starters already this season. Only B.C.’s Mike Reilly and Edmonton’s Trevor Harris have started every game.

“It’s always next man up, it doesn’t matter what position it is,” Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill said.

Streveler brings different dynamic on offence

Now that they’ve had a few days to get over the sting of losing quarterback Matt Nichols, members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are looking forward to seeing what backup Chris Streveler can do.

“It’s gonna be a bit of a different dynamic on offence,” running back Andrew Harris said.

“Matt’s definitely our No. 1 guy who brings a lot of leadership abilities. He’s an overall great quarterback but it gives Streveler an opportunity to step in and see what he’s got.”

Quarterback Chris Streveler (left) laughs with running back Andrew Harris (centre) and quarterback Matt Nichols during warmup at Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice on the University of Manitoba campus on Monday. Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network Kevin King / Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun

Streveler has proven to be extremely dangerous rushing the football, something you would never say about Nichols, but many observers have questioned his arm strength and ability to consistently hit his targets.

“I have full confidence in Streveler and I know the rest of the guys in the offence do as well,” Harris said.