Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke had a heart-to-heart with his embattled 3-10 team Friday morning prior to a bitterly cold practice at Canad Inns Stadium.
With his team dead-last in the CFL standings and facing weather conditions this week that have made practising uncomfortable to say the least -- temperatures were near 0 C, it was snowing and the winds gusted to 60 km/h at practice Friday -- Burke urged his players to reflect on what it was that caused them to want to be football players in the first place.
"Try to think back to the time when you fell in love with the game," Burke said he told his players. "And try to recapture that feeling. Because I think guys are pressing too much and putting too much pressure on themselves.
"And I want them to just go out there and play this game just for the sheer joy of being a great athlete -- of being a professional and for the love of the game."
Burke made the speech one day after newly signed offensive lineman Lee Barbiasz informed the Bombers he was returning home after just one day of practice on Thursday.
Barbiasz, a recent cut of the Jacksonville Jaguars, took part in a blustery practice on Thursday and then informed the team he’d already had enough.
Burke said Barbiasz didn't specify what caused him to so abruptly change his mind about playing in Winnipeg.
"Sometimes guys just don't like football that much," said Burke. "He said it just wasn't that important to him anymore. I guess he got up here and had second thoughts."
Bombers QB Joey Elliott said Burke’s appeal for his players to look deep inside themselves resonated with a team facing the daunting task of having to go into Montreal this weekend to play the East Division-leading Alouettes on Monday.
"When you were a kid, you probably grew up being the best (football player) on your block or in your neighborhood," said Elliott.
"But what really pushed you to be the kind of player you are and why are you here? Basically, gut check why you love the game. If you really love it that much, put in that much more effort and if we come away with a win, it will be that much sweeter."
FIELDNOTES -- Burke said the father of slotback Clarence Denmark has died and Denmark has returned home for the funeral. Denmark will not play in Montreal Monday and will be replaced in the lineup by Isaac Anderson.