WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will have to defend their East Division title without tailback Chris Garrett.
The Bombers announced Tuesday the third-year player suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon in practice, falling to the turf after hauling in a pass.
“We are extremely disappointed after hearing the news from the doctors about how serious Chris’ injury exactly is,” Bombers' GM Joe Mack said in a statement. “It is unfortunate for the club, but also for Chris as he was someone who was looking forward to being a big part of our offence this season.
"Chris is a tough young man who will overcome this and we wish him a quick recovery.”
The loss is a big one for Winnipeg. The five-foot-eight, 185-pound Garrett averaged a stellar 6.3 yards per carry last season after taking over as the starting tailback once veteran Fred Reid was injured.
Garrett finished the year running for 576 yards and four TDs on 92 carries. He added 190 yards rushing on 29 carries to lead Winnipeg to a 19-3 win over Hamilton in last year's East Division final.
Winnipeg is scheduled to open its season Friday night in Vancouver against B.C. in a rematch of last year's Grey Cup game, which was won by the Lions.
Winnipeg still has three rookie running backs in its ranks: Chad Simpson and Calgary native Anthony Woodson on the 46-man roster and Bloi-Dei Dorzon on the practice roster. With Simpson (lower leg) also not 100 per cent, Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice hinted Dorzon could be in the starting lineup against B.C.
"I feel bad for Chris because he's a good guy and a good kid,'' he said. "We have three talented backs here and it's a good thing we did.
"Out of the backs we had, he (Dorzon) performed just as well as everybody else, if not better than all the guys in pre-season. If that's any indication I think he's ready to step in.''