Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Jovon Johnson takes on new role as Bombers linebacker

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Jovon Johnson, who made CFL history in 2011 as the first defensive back to ever win the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award, is now a linebacker.

Johnson was unveiled during practice at Canad Inns Stadium Wednesday as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers new strong-side linebacker, a dramatic move head coach Tim Burke says is just about getting the best use out of his team’s talent but which is surely also testimony to just how desperate things have become for the Bombers.

With Johnson at strong-side linebacker, the Bombers secondary now has Brandon Stewart -- who used to be the team’s SAM -- at one corner position and Demond Washington at the other corner. Jonathan Hefney and Alex Suber remain the half-backs, as does Ian Logan at safety.

Burke said after practice that the move was Johnson’s idea and he likes the potential of the shuffle. "Some of it relates to Saskatchewan, some of it is something that I’ve just been thinking about as we’ve gone along. So now’s a pretty good time to make that change."

Johnson said he’s willing to do anything at this point to right the Bombers’s ship. "At the end of the day, I’m all for whatever the team needs. And at this point, we’re looking for an answer. So why not put me closer to the ball and give me an opportunity to make plays."

Wednesday was the team’s first full practice since a humiliating 52-0 defeat to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina last Sunday and in advance of the rematch this Sunday in the Banjo Bowl.

While Burke was downplaying the significance of the Johnson position move, he did make clear that he feels the club needs an attitude adjustment right now -- hinting for a first time at a "negative atmosphere" that he believes has become a problem in the locker room.

"I talked to the team about we’ve got to get rid of the negative atmosphere here," Burke told reporters. "Whether there’s some carry-over from Paul being dismissed or whether it’s the four road games in a row or the stadium -- whatever the negativity is, we’ve got to get over that and move on to the positives and feel good about ourselves. And go out there and feed on each other’s energy."

Burke’s comments are the first time that anyone with the Bombers management -- including former head coach Paul LaPolice -- had suggested that delays in getting the team into its new stadium this season and the four-game road trip to start the year that was precipitated by those delays may have created some hard feelings within the team and had an impact on the field.

"What would it have been like," Burke wondered, "if, okay, we had come home after four games to this brand new stadium and maybe there might have been some energy from that -- who knows?," said Burke. "It’s hard to tell."

Burke was asked if players had been openly complaining about some of the team’s failings off the field this season. "I think so, a little bit," Burke replied. "I just told them -- that’s got to stop. And it’s up to your teammates to hold you to that standard that we’re not going to do that kind of stuff. I challenged the leadership to take charge of that and nip it in the bud. If there ever is anymore, let’s get it out. And then I’m going to handle it if it gets to me."


FIELD NOTES -- The right side of the Bombers offensive line is a mess right now, with tackle Jordan Taormina (stinger) and guard Steve Morley (ankle) both sitting out practice on Wednesday. Burke sounded optimistic, but said only that both men are "possible" for this Sunday's game. In their absence, Shannon Boatman played tackle and Paul Swiston played guard on the first team Wednesday.

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