Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–3–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New offence, new defence, new pivots: Bombers' mini-camp to be first sneak peek

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It's going to be a very big week for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as fans get a clearer picture of where the club has been -- with Tuesday's release of the organization's annual financial report -- and where the club is going -- with the start of mini-camp on Wednesday.

The Bombers will release their 2012 financial statement at a news conference this afternoon -- the Free Press learned Monday the team will report a loss of just under $800,000 -- and then follow that up with the club's annual Fan Forum this evening at Canad Inns Stadium.

The Fan Forum gives fans a chance to question the Bombers coaching staff and executive directly and that could make for some fireworks tonight, particularly if, as expected, Bombers GM Joe Mack is in attendance.

Mack has become a lightning rod in the minds of many Bombers fans for all that's gone wrong for the franchise in the past 12 months and there will undoubtedly be some pointed questions for Mack, particularly on the club's still unsettled quarterback situation heading into the 2013 season.

While it will be interesting to hear from Mack on the quarterback question this evening, the more complete answer will likely come on the field at the Winnipeg Indoor Soccer Complex Wednesday through Friday as the Bombers stage their annual three-day mini-camp.

Three of the four quarterbacks currently on the Bombers roster -- veteran starter Buck Pierce and newly signed CFL rookies Chase Clement and Max Hall -- will practise on the same field together for the first time this week.

The only quarterback missing this week will be veteran Bombers backup Justin Goltz, whose wife is pregnant and is due to deliver very soon, the team said.

While Bombers head coach Tim Burke has named Pierce as the nominal starter heading into camp, the club has also made clear that Clement, Hall and Goltz will all be given legitimate auditions during the pre-season to make their case to be handed the ball when the regular season opens June 27 at home against the Montreal Alouettes.

Burke said the first step in that process begins in earnest this week at a training camp Burke says has been structured to give his quarterbacks as many repetitions as possible.

"This whole week has been set up to give the quarterbacks the best chance of developing," said Burke. "A lot of what we're going to be doing this week and in main camp is going to be about giving them the repetitions they need to get familiar with the offence and, in two of their cases, with the CFL."

While Clement spent one day in training camp with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2009, he is effectively a raw CFL rookie just like Hall. Clement comes to the Bombers from the UFL, while Hall has NFL experience, with a handful of starts for the Arizona Cardinals in 2010.

"They're going to need to get their timing down," said Burke. "And we're going to want to get them used to all the movement in our receivers and the defence, which they wouldn't know from playing in the U.S."

Burke said Pierce is also going to have a learning curve in camp this week. Offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton has made some significant changes to the offensive scheme for this season, with a lot of it aimed at keeping the oft-injured Pierce upright by giving him more protection.

In addition to all the focus on the quarterbacks, Burke said his defence is also going to have to learn a new defensive scheme that underwent substantial renovations in the off-season.

Burke said he and new defensive co-ordinator Casey Creehan made some trips during the winter to some NFL teams and brought back with them some new coverages they intend to introduce this season to make the Bombers defence less predictable to opposing offences.

At the end of the day, however, Burke said this week's mini-camp is going to be a lot less intense than the main camp that will take place in June.

"Nobody's going to win or lose a job in mini-camp," Burke says. "It's really just about giving everyone a head-start on the main camp."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 23, 2013 D4

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Updated on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 9:00 AM CDT: replaces photo, adds fact box

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