Not even tempted to go to free agency, Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld signed on the dotted line on Thursday to return for a ninth season in the blue and gold.
Neufeld has done a complete 180-degree turn since he first joined the Bombers almost a decade ago when he even considered retirement instead of playing another season for the Bombers.
Neufeld said he’s seen a complete culture shift since he first arrived in Winnipeg in 2013 after a trade from his hometown team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“The locker room, the way that people interacted, the way practices were, there just wasn’t a lot of care in my opinion,” said Neufeld on Friday.
“Just the way that kinda collectively things were wasn’t an environment conducive to winning. It wasn’t a very positive atmosphere.”
The 33-year-old Neufeld is coming off back-to-back all-star seasons and he’s the second-longest tenured player on the team after Jake Thomas.
“Jake and I talk all the time about how tough it was,” he said. “It was like the team couldn’t get out of its own way.
“When you have brand-new guys coming in as much as we did even in my short time in 2013, it was going to be hard to win for sure. And I think my sense of the locker room was guys just didn’t care. A lot of guys just didn’t care. There was young guys that did care, and guys that committed.
“I can’t speak for everyone in the locker room but I think there was guys that had checked out pretty early.”
But that seems like ancient history now after three straight trips to the Grey Cup game.
“We have consistency in people and personnel and I think that shows on the field when guys really care about each other. They want to play harder for each other, and sacrifice a little more.
“So, seeing that grow and build over time, coupled with winning, goes a long way into wanting to stay in a place like this.”
The Bombers will have a long list of free agents in February, but Neufeld believes most players won’t want to leave a good thing.
“I think we have a special thing here and hopefully we can bring back a lot of those guys,” said Neufeld. “I think a lot of people want to be here.
“It’s pretty infectious place to play and I mean that in all the best ways possible. Hopefully we can get a good group of guys back here.
“I don’t know how much lobbying we have to do. I mean, that locker room that we’ve had is so tight.”
The Bombers also announced the signing of defensive back Karon Delince on Friday.
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