Tim Burke’s biggest decision has been taken out of his hands -- for now.
The new head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers told reporters today quarterback Joey Elliott – not Buck Pierce – will get the start for his 2-6 club when they travel to Regina to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders Sunday afternoon. Pierce’s foot injury (suffered in a game July 13) has not healed to the point where he can play, the interim coach indicated, meaning Elliott will make his third straight start against the 3-5 Riders.
"The status on Buck is that he will not be playing this week," said Burke, who was elevated from his defensive co-ordinator position to head coach after Paul LaPolice was fired Saturday. "He still is not healthy enough. He’ll start to practise this week; we’ll see how that goes. At this point, it’s just how fast he heals."
Burke pointed out that Pierce is still the starting quarterback, but did leave the door open a crack for Elliott to walk through with a good effort in the Labour Day Classic.
"(Pierce) was brought here to be the starting quarterback and he’s done nothing to show that he shouldn’t be, and we’ll see how Joey’s progressing," he said. "At that time, (GM) Joe Mack, myself and (offensive co-ordinator) Gary Crowton will make a decision."
Burke also reiterated to reporters he will hold a firmer hand than LaPolice did when dealing with the players ("more structured, more rigid," he says). Players will be fined for selfish penalties, while those who go offside in a game will be subject to "physical discomfort" during practice.
About those practices: The players can expect shorter, more intense workouts designed to raise the level of competition, the coach said.
"I’m going to be a horses-behind in practice, because I want things done a certain way," he added. "And you’re going to know when it’s not done the right way. Get ready for me yelling (Tuesday)."
Other points of interest from Burke today:
- The Bombers offence is now fully in the hands of Crowton, who has exactly eight games of CFL experience under his belt.
"I’m not going to interfere with how he calls a game," Burke said, calling his own offensive prowess "minimal" when asked of his involvement moving forward. "I might say, ‘Hey, Gary, let’s run the ball here’ or I might say, ‘Don’t worry about playing conservative here; go after their butts.’ That would be the extent of my interference on offence."
Burke also confirmed that Crowton, and not LaPolice, did most of the play-calling for the Bombers prior to LaPolice’s dismissal.
- The in-game management will be his biggest challenge, Burke admits. He’s never had to manage a game before, and will enlist the services of special teams coach Kyle Walters to serve as his right-hand man. Linebacker coach Chip Garber will control the defence during games, Burke said.
- As for the injury situation coming out of last Friday’s game, Burke said defensive back Johnny Sears (upper body) is "doubtful" for the Riders game, but more tests have to be done. Slotback Cory Watson (undisclosed) is listed as probable, though he may not practise much this week.