SPORTS

With playoff dreams dead, Blue Bombers acting GM Walters weighs in on Hall trade

10/07/2013 02:10 EDT | Updated 12/07/2013 05:12 EST
WINNIPEG - "Given up" is too harsh a phrase for Winnipeg Blue Bombers acting general manager Kyle Walters.

But by sending defensive star Alex Hall to the Saskatchewan Roughriders over the weekend, the Bombers have essentially conceded their playoff chances are as cold as winter in their prairie home.

Hope probably died for Winnipeg fans long ago, as the team (2-12) flirts with a chance to post its worst finish in the modern 18-game CFL. A 38-11 loss to Calgary last Saturday coupled with Montreal's win over Edmonton left only the slimmest of chances for the Blue Bombers.

"I guess mathematically we still have a chance but the reality is making decisions for the future has to be in the thought process."

Instead of wishing and hoping, Walters opted for dealing and building.

Hall's departure, which was more a matter of when and not if, came down to a couple of other late-season "ifs" that could have changed the decision.

"There was interest two weeks ago about Alex Hall and if we could have pulled off a win against Edmonton or against Calgary and if Montreal's record had stayed where it was, then...?" Walters said Monday.

Hall, a soon-to-be free agent who leads the CFL with 15 sacks, wants to try the NFL again and Walters can understand why the six-foot-six, 256-pound defensive end would get serious looks. He played 32 games for the Cleveland Browns before joining the CFL.

But keeping such a talented player even for the short-term would have been Winnipeg's preference.

"Our No. 1 goal all along was to re-sign Alex Hall, it's been going on for a year," Walters said. "The No. 2 goal was to have Alex Hall on this team as we make a push for the playoffs.

"And the reality was a tough decision needed to be made within the next 48 hours and that's what was made."

The Bombers received Canadian offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld and a fourth-round pick in the 2015 CFL draft for Hall and a second-round pick in the 2014 draft. Walters said Winnipeg gets a better CFL-ready Canadian offensive lineman than they could have hoped for in next year's draft.

"With this draft, where we're at in my opinion with a second-round pick, we weren't going to get a player with Patrick Neufeld's ability, it's as simple as that," he said.

He was a target for the Bombers last year when he was a free agent but re-signed in Saskatchewan and a broken leg didn't dampen Winnipeg's enthusiasm.

Walters insists his players will do all they can to win as the season drags to a close Nov. 2 with a final home game at Investors Group Field.

"The players in there are professional players and they're supposed to go out there and they're going to play to their maximum ability no matter who's out there," he said.

"I think 'given up' is a real harsh way of putting things."

The GM's top priority is finding a starting quarterback but next on his list is Canadian talent and there aren't a lot of pivots on the market.

"Teams in Grey Cup hunts right now, no one's really interested, if they think they've got a legitimate shot at that playoff run, to give away a quarterback at this point in the year," Walters said. "Not even teams with three."

Even the Ottawa dispersal draft may not change things much, since by losing a quarterback they can protect two other Canadians. Walters did credit the dispersal with enabling the Neufeld deal, since Saskatchewan cannot protect all of its Canadian talent.

"Patrick Neufeld would not have been available any other year," he said.

Defence is the one area where the Bombers have had some success this season, although keeping some of those players — linebacker Henoc Muamba is another example — may not be easy. Walters said he has had contact with Muamba's agent.

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