On the first day of the last week in what has been almost – and yet could be – the Bombers’ most miserable year, head coach Tim Burke gathered the troops, bodies battered and egos bruised, and told them how it was.
"This is going to be our last week together, that’s what I told 'em today," Burke said after practice on Tuesday, as the Bombers limp into their final home game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday. "There will be changes of some kind. Whether it’s one person, or half the team and all the coaching staff… some guys, it’s the last game they’ll ever play in their life."
A silver lining, thin and stained as it is: in weeks like this, with the Bombers battling only not to tie their own worst-ever season record of 3-15, it becomes clear which players have their hearts in the game, and which are just counting down the days until they take the last paycheque and hop on a plane outta here. Already, Burke said, a few players have checked out: although he didn’t name names, they will be among those that do not play.
Meanwhile, Burke must assemble a roster full of young guys – partly because they want to see more of them, partly because so many of his squad are injured. Defender Kenny Mainor had a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday and his status remains to be seen; receiver Mike Sims-Walker is injured and won’t play this week; neither will offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld, defensive ends Greg Peach and Michael McAdoo or slotback Terrence Edwards.
Not among the walking wounded: quarterback Max Hall, who has come along over the season, will play on Saturday – a welcome surprise, after he took a battering in last week’s game. He will get the start.
Meanwhile, Burke said the Bombers will look to get some reps to running back Mario Fannin this week, a late-season addition that the Bombers brass are intrigued by. They will also give defensive end J.D. Griggs and defensive tackle Zach Anderson some more field time.
"There’s not a lot of guys we haven’t played that have come in," Burke said. "Pretty much a lot of them are playing right now."