WINNIPEG — Winnipeg Blue Bombers coach Tim Burke took ownership of Saturday’s decision to release two-time CFL all-star defensive back Jonathan Hefney.
"Ultimately the decision to release somebody is my decision," Burke told reporters early this afternoon, the first chance to question the team about the move.
"I know know Joe (Mack, Bombers GM) has been taking a lot of heat from ...since I don’t read the newspapers and listen to the talk shows and definitely don’t read the blogs, I don’t know where he’s getting the heat from but ultimately it’s my decision and I did it in conjunction with the defensive co-ordinator (Casey Creehan) and the secondary coach (Carl Franks) and when I approached Joe about the decision, he said I’ll support you in whatever you want to do.
"So ultimately it’s my decision."
Burke said the decision was "primarily" performance-based.
"We just didn’t feel like he could perform some of the tasks necessary to be a half-back in this league, that fit in with our defence," Burke said. "And so that was the biggest factor. We had talked to him about moving to the nickel position this year and he decided he would rather play half-back. We tried to move him to a position that would better suit his talent level and that’s the way it goes."
Burke didn’t deny other factors — like Hefney being charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana in South Carolina on the even of this year’s training camp.
"When you look at a person, you’re looking at everything," the coach said. "You’re looking at his whole body, his whole resume. But performance is the No. 1 reason. It’s by far the No. 1 reason."
Burke said he talked to the team’s defensive players on Saturday night after Hefney was released.
"I knew it would affect some of them more than anybody else," he said. "There was probably a little bit of shock there."
Maybe not shock, but impact.
"I think we’re used to it right now," said veteran receiver Terrence Edwards, who was back at practice today. "We had a surprise last year with Clint Kent. We got another surprise this weekend. I think the team was a little shook up last year with Clint so I think we are more prepared this year for something like this to happen. We can’t worry about it. Players don’t make decisions. The only thing we can do is go out there and do our job."
Jovon Johnson, a member of the defensive secondary unit that has been under fire from Burke for some time, said the decision was "business."
Johnson has spoken to Hefney.
"I talk to him all the time," Johnson said. "He was really hurt. When you’re around the team for a number of years and they you have to lose that for whatever reasons, it definitely hurts and he was definitely hurt by it. And I mean I think he was more at a loss for words as to why it happened to him.
"And I’m sure he’ll bounce back and resurface soon and hopefully he’ll go out and perform like we know he can."
Asked what the team’s reaction was, Johnson said: "He was one of our guys. Everybody’s going to be sad about losing one of your guys. He was with us for a while, he’s been an all-star for a number of years and he produces a lot on the field.
"To lose a guy like that, the reaction from the team will be one that everybody in the stands can relate do. At the end of the day, a business is a business and that’s just the way it works."