The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, winners of only one of six games so far this CFL season, were talking up their enthusiasm and freshness today after finishing preparations for Friday night’s home game against the 2-4 Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The Bombers have had a lot of changes since they last played a 27-20 loss at B.C. 10 days ago.
GM Joe Mack and team CEO Garth Buchko have been dismissed, Max Hall has been promoted to the starting quarterback’s role this week, Marcel Bellefeuille has been added to the coaching staff, and the team has a new placekicker in Sandro DeAngelis.
Hall took the first-team reps this week as he prepares for his first CFL start at the age of 27.
He has yet to see the field in a regular-season CFL game.
"I don’t want to get into the previous two (quarterbacks)," Hall said today. "I know I have an opportunity to step up and be the leader on offence. I think we’ve had a good week of practice, we’ve worked hard and we put in the extra time to get on the same page.
"Guys came fresh off the bye week and are excited to get back on the field. So if we can transfer that enthusiasm and assertiveness into the game, I think we could make some explosive plays on offence and make those plays that we’ve been missing.
"And if we can do that, i think the outcome will be in our favour."
Hall was peppered with plenty of questions this week about the pressure of the Bombers needing a win and about his CFL inexperience.
"I just have to play like this is my team, it’s my turn to take over and not worry about that other stuff.," he said.
Hall said the offence has been tinkered with in a few small ways this week, tailored to his strengths.
One of the items in his favour could be his NFL stint, though short. He started three games for the Arizona Cardinals in 2010.
"It was with a team that struggled and (I was) kind of thrown into a situation, but I think what happened in Arizona has prepared me for what’s happening," Hall said. "I understand the things I need to do and what I shouldn’t do. I can’t go out there and feel like it’s all on me. I can’t put all the pressure on my shoulders. I have to rely on my teammates and I’ve just got to make the reads and get the ball in the hands of our playmakers and trust the guys around me.
"I’ve definitely learned from what happened to me in Arizona and I think it’ll help me."
He said his first NFL start against New Orleans was an imposing assignment.
"I was a little bit nervous and playing on a big stage and it being my first start and playing against a good football team in the Saints who had just won the Super Bowl," he said. "If anything, I feel calmer right now in this situation. I feel more prepared for it but definitely I remember going into that game thinking it was pretty big. Now my second time around, it doesn’t feel quite as big and I feel more confident going into this situation."
In a week that has featured plenty of upheaval around the Bombers, head coach Tim Burke said there’s no panic.
"I think they feel a sense of urgency," Burke said. "I was just talking with Terrence Edwards and he said practice felt different this week. We had a lot more energy on offence. I’m hoping that translates into a better offensive performance."
Still, Burke conceded, change isn’t always easy.
"Probably one of the more stressful weeks of my life," he said.