The Winnipeg Blue Bombers held a unique video session before practice Monday, a film study that straddled the line between comedy and horror.
Interim head coach Tim Burke, desperate to get any response from his team following another blowout loss on the road in Calgary last Friday, showed clips of the TSN broadcast to his team, a move designed to give the players a sense of how their play is being received across the country.
The highlight reel didn’t just stop with players laughing on the sidelines of the 44-3 loss to the Stamps, either. Brandon Collier – the easily amused defensive lineman in question – was a starting point for the head coach, but he wasn’t the only one.
"There were other guys laughing on the sideline," Burke told reporters Monday. "Obviously, I addressed that. I showed them a video of the TSN broadcast, what they were saying at halftime, and then during the latter part of the game and said, ‘This is your resume. This is what people in the outside world are thinking about you. And so you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to respond to that. Are you going to do that with pride or are you going to tuck your tail and run?’ So, we’ll see how they respond."
Winnipeg has been outscored 121-27 in the last three games (all losses) and at 2-9 and in last place in the CFL, appear to be playing out the string this season. This question of pride was evident to Burke, who as it turns out was just getting warmed up.
When asked why he showed the video, his response was in line what with many Bomber fans are thinking about their club these days.
"Because it’s embarrassing," he said. "I mean, (these are) professional athletes. We should act in a professional manner. You’re getting paid to play as hard as you can play. We did not play as hard as we could play. That’s evident. Everybody in the stands, everybody watching on TV – we didn’t play hard enough to win, and it’s inexcusable. The good people of Winnipeg pay good money to come watch them play, and this is an attendance driven league. Their salaries are being paid by the fans of Winnipeg, so they deserve more than what they’re getting."
That the players need to be shown what others are saying about them speaks volumes of how out of touch they are to what’s going on this season (that it has to come to being shown a TSN broadcast is mind-boggling, when you think about it), but the pictureshow did serve its purpose.
"It’s an eye-opener on how things are perceived," receiver Cory Watson said. "No one wants to be ridiculed when you’re doing something that you love and you come out here and work hard for. It’s a tough one to swallow, yeah."
Why has it come to this point? Burke said the Bombers are too young, a reality that was evident long before he stepped in the head coaching chair. That team make-up falls to GM Joe Mack, though Burke was quick to defend his boss from bringing in the young talent at the sacrifice of older veterans. Mack has made some needed changes, Burke says, but wasn’t about to throw his Mack under the bus.
There are still future employment opportunities to consider.
"We all know there’s a lot of good players that played in Winnipeg who weren’t here when Joe took over," Burke said. "You can try to put the blame on him all you want, but he’s brought in good young players, we’ve drafted really well. Our Canadian talent before he got here was horrendous and now it’s getting better. I mean, we’re almost up to a top level."
Burke was asked if players were concerned enough about their own jobs. His answer, once again, traces back to the youthful roster and its own ability to recognize what’s going on – both on the field and in the community. If players aren’t worried about their own jobs, they should be.
"Professional players have the mindset that they’re the best player on the field, and when you’re talking to them about (mistakes), they think you’re talking about the other guy," Burke said. "There probably isn’t enough fear there. It’s like I told them, if this all goes south and everybody gets fired, guess what? Some of you guys are getting fired, too. People are going to say, either they aren’t talented enough or they don’t care enough.
"We’ve got to prove to everybody that we are more talented and that we do care."
Other notes from Bomberland Monday:
- As expected, quarterback Buck Pierce will get the start Friday night against Hamilton. He took all the first-team reps Monday. Pierce was all business during his time with reporters after practice, too, believing Winnipeg will see a different club this week than the one that showed up (or didn’t show up) in Calgary.
- A number of Bombers didn’t practice Monday. Linebackers Henoc Muamba and Marcellus Bowman were limited, joining defensive backs Alex Suber and Brandon Stewart, along slotback Terrence Edwards, on the sidelines. All are expected to play Friday, Burke said.
- Winnipeg has issues in the middle of its defensive line right now. Jake Thomas (undisclosed) was ruled out by Burke, while the previously-mentioned Collier (lower body) was put on the nine-game injured list Monday. To help fill those spots, the Bombers signed defensive lineman Andre Caroll. He was training camp fodder in 2011 and 2012. Offensive lineman Jordan Taormina was also ruled out for Friday’s game.